Culture Notes

9/2/12

So, the last couple of days have been hectic. Friday and Saturday (the 31st and the 1st) consisted of orientation and whirlwind tours of the campus, the city and the subway systems. The campus is a lot like a little city in its own right. There is a little convenience store on campus where you can buy anything from a watch to food to school supplies. Anything you need, they probably have it somewhere in this store. There are also a lot of little street vendors on campus. Don’t worry, they are not the kind of street vendors that sell the food that you hear horror stories about, either because of the product or because of how sick someone got. They are actually pretty good. Today in fact, I bought some 饺子 (jiaozi) which are pretty much what we Americans call pot stickers. I; however, have never had jiaozi as good as these were. Another plus, you get ten for five Yuan which is equivalent to less than one U.S dollar. How is that for a deal?

The only thing I find a little scary about the campus is that there are gates at every entrance and there are guards everywhere. I assume I am supposed to feel safe with all of these guards around but it makes me wonder why the school needs so many. Food for thought I suppose. Finally, the sad but common scene that you find in most cities is seen on this campus as well: homeless people, adults and children, sleeping in the streets. It is sad but true.

Moving on to a happier topic, the city of Beijing seems to be very interesting. Of course, I have only explored a small section so far but I have seen some interesting things. First off, Chinese people love there KFCs. Everywhere you go, you find at least one KFC. McDonalds is also a big deal here. I am not sure why these fast food restaurants made it on the guest list but I guess it will be nice to have a taste of home every once and a while. Another interesting note is that it seems going to a Chinese barber shops and salons is meant to be a grand experience. The shops I’ve seen are decorated to the nine, punk/disco music is usually blaring and people just look like they are having fun.

As for getting around Beijing, the easiest way to do so is by subway. When we first went down into the subway, I happened to walk over to look at the map and boy, was I scared. There are lines going all over the place! There did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the system and given my lack of directionality, I could just imagine myself ending up at some random stop in the middle of nowhere.  However, I am proud to say, I have now ridden the subway twice without getting lost and I believe I have learn how to navigate the confusing underground maze. Further on in this blog post I will describe a story of how I conquered the city of Beijing and its subway system. First though, I must tell you about Pyro Pizza.

Pyro Pizza is a pizza joint located about a twenty five minute walk away from campus. It is, surprisingly, a New York style pizza place. The owner is from the U.S. and the bartender/waitress is from Great Britain. As a welcome to China, they held a party for all of us with all you can eat pizza. It was definitely a great way to meet the people in our group, listen to some comforting music and be introduced to China in a way that doesn’t seem so foreign. My favorite part was of course when they started playing fifties, sixties and seventies music. When I heard that, I felt like I was home.

Now, to my story of conquering the subway system: While at Pyro Pizza a bunch of us got to talking about how our rooms look like prison cells where people have been murdered. Perhaps this sounds a bit harsh but if you could only see this place, you would understand. Anyway, during our discussion we all decided that since there is no storage in our rooms and living out of a suitcase for three and a half months did not sound ideal, we were going to go to IKEA. Problem number one with this plan, IKEA is not IKEA in Chinese, it is pronounced differently. Problem number two, we had no idea where it was at. Nevertheless, my roommates and I, being three intelligent girls, set to work on this problem. We contacted a girl we knew from Linfield who was from China and we got the address. Next, we located a map of Beijing, found the street in which the IKEA was located and figured out how to get there via subway and walking. Now, as most of you know I am extremely directionally challenged so how I got picked to be navigator, I will never know. But, guess what?!?! I got us there safe and sound!

We then proceeded to wander throughout the store for the next two hours, just soaking the culture. Culture note: Chinese IKEAs are the place to go if you just want to spend the day sleeping and eating. It is perfectly acceptable and almost encouraged it seems to just take a nap on the beds and couches that are on display. We must have seen at least three or four little kids just passed out on the beds. Adults were also crashed on the couches and beds either sleeping or people watching. On the top floor there was what I would liken to an American mall food court. It had all sorts of different food. Salmon lasagna, hot dogs (that didn’t look necessarily like hot dogs), spaghetti (I think it had a pork meat sauce but don’t quote me on that as my Chinese character reading is not up to par yet) and Swedish meatballs with teriyaki sauce were just a few of the food choices I saw on the menu. Downstairs is where the real party was though. THEY HAD ONE YUAN ICE CREAM! What this means folks is that for one decent sized ice cream cone it cost me the equivalent of a little less than seventeen cents. So, what did I do? I bought two of course! A deal like only comes along once in a life time.

So, all in all, I believe my first couple of days in Beijing have been going pretty well. I will not lie to you, there were some hard times. Homesickness is a real thing and it can hit hard and fast. Lucky enough for me though, I have great roommates and great friends who have definitely helped keep a smile on my face and happiness in my heart. Tomorrow I start classes so I should probably wrap this up. Until next post, thanks for reading and I miss you all.

~Ashley

Random culture notes:

One thing I have noticed about children’s clothes here is that for younger kids, almost all of them have a split in the back of their pants. I suppose it could help with potty training because other than that, I have no explanation for this fashion statement.

One other thing about fashion is that all of the women here are dressed to the nine. Everywhere I go, I see women walking down the street in fancy dresses or fancy clothes of some sort. I believe that even if I somehow managed to blend in, I don’t even own clothes fancy enough to match what some of these women were wearing.

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One thought on “Culture Notes

  1. You are correct on the “split pants” as diapers…having seen the “squat” in action before. One Yuan ice cream…yummo….and “directionally challenged” We have so much in common!
    Tyler

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