Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Settling In

so this week went by pretty quickly, a lot of it was more or less just classwork and some mini adventures. in terms of academia, i think i definitely have learned more characters and grammar, but i dont think my speaking ability has improved much. prepping for class only takes about 2-3 hours a day now, which is really not that much compared to how difficult the program was at the beginning.

last friday i went to houhai, unfortunately i didn't have my camera with me. houhai is this area that is northwest of tiananmen and it is a large lake that is surrounded by restaurants and bars. it was a really beautiful night and the night life there was pretty active, next time i'll definitely go there again to spend some time just enjoying the atmosphere. one that that many people found annoying was the fact that there were live performances by random singers at nearly ever restaurant/bar and it sometimes didn't sound too pleasant... oh! and that reminds me...we coincidentally bumped into a group of yalies from the duke program when we went into a restaurant there which was really surprising but also a lot of fun

on july 4th, HBA bought us pizza for our "chinese table" for us to celebrate u.s.'s independence. although i'm not a fan of pizza, this time it came at a good moment, i'm starting to get a little sick of chinese food everyday. the good thing about the u.s. is that although a lot of the foreign food it offers isn't authentic, it has a lot of variety. in beijing, unless you make an effort to do so, you won't find many foreign food with the exception of fast food... i don't really miss american food or any other food specifically, but i do want to eat some other food occasionally.

i'm very experienced now with the public transportation system. bus 307 goes straight to 北大 and one stop later goes to 中关村. it costs only 0.40 RMB if you have a transportation card, so it's extremely cheap. public transportation gets heavily subsidized by the government because beijing's traffic is soooo bad. apparently there is on average, 6000 new privately owned vehicles that are bought in beijing each day. one of the biggest reasons for why beijing's pollution is so bad is because it's becoming industrialized so quickly, and despite the fact that the government has moved all the factories out of beijing's city limits, the amount of dirt created by building new buildings and paving new roads each day is enough to really mess up the environment. in addition, all the cars and what not only worsen the situation. my allergies are really bad in beijing, i spend most of the first 大班课 sneezing everyday. luckily, some of my friends from the states brought me some claritin when they visited beijing so i'll be okay for a little while.

for our weekend interview project, we had to interview someone about the cultural revolution. personally, i don't think this was the best question for us to ask because as expected, we really didn't get much response. perhaps that was the point of the whole interview... but anyways, we interviewed some 70 year old men sitting outside of the hutong area we were at. their responses were pretty hysterical, i don't know if it's because they were brainwashed by the government or because they simply didn't trust us because they knew we were americans and were weary about actually talking about this kind of stuff. politics is an extremely sensitive topic in china and of course, any negative information about the government can lead to very serious consequences.

some of the things they said (which i think were lies):
-they were about 40-50 years old during the cultural revolution and were workers, and so all they did was work. they were not affected by the revolution AT ALL, and that it was a matter that was dealt with by government officials and intellectuals at the time.
-i heard from my grandparents before that during the 1940s before china's "解放" china was so poor in some places such that people actually ate one another and were forced to sell their children to each other to eat... although this is an extremely example, the two people we interviewed acted as if china was not lacking anything at the time. they said my grandparents were just too old and telling me lies, and that during the time, the chinese were very wealthy and there was never a problem of starvation.
-they also said that before the communists came into power, a piece of bread (馒头) was almost 400 RMB but after the communists came into power, one piece was only one CENT, and a piece with oil and sesame seeds was only two CENTS. a 油条 (the title of my blog), which is a traditional breakfast item, cost less than ten CENTS. (this one might not be a lie. i verified)
-lastly, they said they saw chairman mao on the bus all the time and that america sucks and is not safe because the presidents always get shot and have to hide in bulletproof cars... (the chairman mao part was definitely a lie)

something very interesting coming up in my next blog post...if it happens this week.

south gate of imperial palace from 景山公园

just outside of the 西四 subway station

old vs new? 胡同 @ 鼓楼街

found at a hutong that has been commercialized



public bathroom @ hutong

warning sign(s) outside a public bathroom

tao and charles
playing with aperture too much..

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