Thursday, June 14, 2007

Song Number 1: Chasing the Sun

Simply put, the plane ride to Beijing was not pleasant. Sitting in one spot for half a day is painful. Thankfully, I had Chinese to take my mind off things. A man from Chengdu sitting next to me was so kind to help me review vocabulary and grammar. I heard myself using the basic dialogue responses that Zhou laoshi had prepared. Chinese 115 at Yale is amazing.
Every so often while I studied, I looked outside the window to enjoy the scenery. The plane took me through every possible geographic region - I saw the Pacific, the Canadian mountain range, its forests, the freezing waters of the North Pole at noon (icebergs included), Chinese desert, Chinese tundra, Chinese farmland... all under the sun. I moved with the sun, rotating around the Earth, casting my shadow 30,000 feet up in the air, my orange round ball of a friend some 65 million miles away.
The humidity hit me like a batting ram when I got off the plane. After customs and baggage claim, I saw thousands of Chinese teenagers crowded around the entrance with orange balloons, waiting for some celebrity to come. I felt pairs of eyes follow me all the way out of the airport - why do they make it so evident?
I took a bus to Wudaokou, thankfully met up with a senior Light Fellow called Jason, who helped me get a taxi to my couchsurfing host's address. My host was really relaxed - an Austrian native, he makes his living taking amazing photographs and teaching English. He's pretty good at Japanese, but his Chinese is not up to par, yet. Like me, he said that he came to China to see it before the Olympic Games' tourists do.
The first afternoon and night there I felt myself blending into the crowd, joining the Asian mass. Occasionally I found myself gawking (though subtlely) at other foreigners, but I think I looked at them more to hear a bit of that comforting English language than for their foreign appearance. The only people who know I'm a foreigner are the waitresses. I'd spend too long poring over the menu while others know immediately what they want. Despite my language barrier (for now), the waitresses were really nice, speaking broken English and unbroken Chinese, while I made sense of them with broken Chinese and unbroken English.
People don't sleep very early in Wudaokou. I took a walk after a much needed shower, and night life is bizarre here. On the main street where everyone from the nearby apartments gather, groups of anywhere from five to fifteen sat in a circle, eating meat kabobs, noodles, and drinking huge bottles of beer. I walked a bit further down to the park, and saw old couples practicing how to waltz to some Chinese singer out of the '80s. After dodging incoming waltzers, the big street was filled with teenagers and other foreigners, some going to nightclubs, some to bars, some to karaoke, some to their homes, some to join their friends for a usual nine-o'clock-meat'n'beer-meal. The drivers liberally honk horns, groups of friends yell raucously into the night, and I lied on my host's couch, overcome by fatigue and jetlag.

edit 8:40 AM BST
I ate xiao baozi and ma2la4mi3sian4 (small meat dumplings and spicy noodles with vegetables) for breakfast. I must pack now, and go to Beijing Language and Culture University to register with Harvard.
note: Nobody seems to cook themselves breakfast in the morning.
note: Drink lots of water. Liters and liters more.

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token freshman said...

sorry i havent commented before
china sounds...different lol great story telling token...ever thought about writing books? just a thought....

i hope you have fun and dont forget to email :D

Viola said...

Why cook breakfast when there are plenty of hawker stalls nearby? Mmmm so good...

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