I loved watching the Muppet movies when I was little. For those of you who have watched “Muppet Treasure Island” before… all I can say is, I have “cabin fever.” I am in the countdown of a little more than 20 days until I come home. (finally!) While living in Beijing and China is amazing, everyday seems to drag on because of all the studying that goes into class preparation. Day in, day out, all I seem to be doing is going to class and preparing for class. An ROTC FTX (field training exercise) would be more exciting at this point. I am trying to take it week by week…I even stopped checking the countdown app on my iPhone, because it was just making the time drag on more…and also making me more and more homesick everyday.
Last time, I posted I wrote about my Fall Break, and the introduction to the Foreign Area Officer clique in Beijing. I wish I had some interesting tidbits to add about my life here the past three weeks or so…but it really has been the same. Waking up, going to class, trying to squeeze in time at the gym before settling down for the night with a huge load of homework. I choose not to go outside to run, as the sidewalks are packed with people and the streets are loaded with bumper-to-bumper traffic. (and did I mention the air pollution!) So I try to run 5 to 7 miles on the treadmill every night. Oh one change I have not mentioned is that I transferred from a Business Chinese Class to Advanced Spoken Chinese. I love this new class because all you really do is do PPTs and have the occasional quiz. Whereas in my business class…I spent around 4 to 5 hours a night preparing. However, one of my classmates believes that the PPTs are a waste of our time, and is bored to death. I believe my speaking and listening comprehension are also improving…at least I hope so. In my opinion, my oral comprehension is probably my forte.
Ah, I just remembered one of the points I wanted to make about one of my observations over here. It was interesting watching the Presidential Election turn out the way it did from abroad. I was the only student in my program to have my whole Facebook feed saying that students wanted to secede, and how upset they were about the outcome. Everyone else in my program here goes to schools in California or in the Northeastern part of the US. So, their Facebook feeds were a little more on the positive note. However this blog is not about my political views, but about my experiences over here in Beijing. In my humble view no matter what outcome an individual may have hoped for, we are lucky to be able to say we “elect” our leaders and that we actually can exercise our right to vote. Two days after The US Presidential Election, the 18th Communist Party Congress convened in Beijing in the Great Hall of the People….right next door to where I went to the joint PLA/US Army Band Concert at the National Performing Arts Center last month. It has been known for years who would become the next “President of China”…but the Party finally made it official on November 15th. The experience here in Beijing is a great one to learn about another nation’s culture, but it also made me even more proud to be an American.
That same day, for our Experience Beijing Class the weekly project was to go see an example of Beijing Opera as well as have the opportunity to do our own Beijing Opera Makeup. Our program invited a traditional makeup artist to come and teach us how to do our makeup. An opera performers’ makeup defines an actor’s gender, personality, significance and role in the opera, just by the color and style of makeup. I knew going into this activity that I would not be able to do this traditional art form any justice, so when they asked for a volunteer for the artist to use as an example, I was the first one to raise my hand – Mulan (Disney movie), here I come. In our small classroom at Capital Normal University, our professors and guest artist set up individual vanity mirrors, paints, brushes, and powders. (Because of doing so many plays my freshman year when I was attending Converse College, Wofford’s neighborhood school, I had a lot of experience having my whole face covered in copious amounts of stage makeup.) Also on the tables were tons and tons of hand and facial wipes to clean off any mistakes. If any of you want to see a fascinating movie about the development of the Beijing Opera as well as it’s persecution under during the Cultural Revolution check out Farewell My Concubine. (I believe it is on Netflix) Luckily for me, I did not have to paint my own face…but some of the guys in my program decided to go a little bit more abstract in their face painting. That Friday, to go along with our discussion of Beijing Opera, we went to go see a couple of excerpts from various Operas. Apparently, I was not too entertained (or extremely exhausted), because after only twenty minutes I fell asleep.
On a little relevant side note the new Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife is an actress. His wife, Peng Liyuan, was better known in China before her husband even joined the Politburo. She is also a major general in the PLA. Yeah girl power…
The most fun highlight since my last blog was a special visitor from the States. My dad came to China for a short business trip, and I got to see him. It was his second trip to China courtesy of the Hanban/The Confucius Institute and College Board. Hanban invites educators to visit Chinese schools out in the various provinces. It was so cool to meet him at the Beijing Airport. I got to spend three nights with my dad, that night and two after he returned back to Beijing after they visited Luoyang in the Henan province.
I think it was the following week, my dad’s Hanban group returned to Beijing (from Luoyang…and yes that is the same city my program also went to. I took the train for ten hours to get there. He flew there in one hour). I had the chance to hang out with my awesome dad for a few fun moments. For starters to an eventful two days (I still had to attend classes during the day) my dad got the concierge at Loong Palace Hotel to tell the taxi driver to take him to my college. But my dad did not know the taxi driver was taking him to the other campus, about a ten-minute walk from where I am currently staying. So after the taxi driver dropped him off, and after a few minutes of trying to figure out where he was and without knowing any Chinese, he called me. A case in point, a fellow student from my program called me and said he thinks he just walked by my Dad – in a city of 20 million people.
Next I heard my Dad say he was going to probably die from being run over by the horrible traffic. From that, I figured out where he was. Next I asked him if he saw a restaurant that had a Chinese looking face with the founder of KFC , 李先生饭馆, and my dad said yes, I’m right in front of that place. So I finally found my dad and introduced him to my roommate, and my “wonderful” dorm room for the semester. After that I took my dad to the best Chinese food restaurant in Beijing, Kro’s Nest, near the Embassy District. (That was a joke; in my previous blogs I have described how Kro’s Nest is a little bit of home away from home. Their American-like pizza is absolutely delicious.) Once we arrived at Kro’s Nest, I ordered us a pizza that was half pepperoni and half BBQ chicken, and a Caesar Salad. As soon as the food arrived his first comment was that it was the first western food he had had in over a week. After this comment I gave him a 真的 look. But it was absolutely wonderful to have the opportunity to sit down and have dinner with my dad for the first time in about three months. One funny story about this was that we kept getting weird stares from people at the restaurant, like people did at the airport in my dad’s group from the States. Some thought I was his girlfriend. Once, I finally introduced myself to his group members, it all clicked. They were like “oh this is why you both look alike”. Super creepy….
Luckily, I got to spend the night with my dad in his hotel (the room had two enormous beds with huge fluffy pillows, it was a great change from the Chinese dorms.) The following morning I got to indulge in the hotels continental breakfast. After breakfast my dad and his tour group went to go see the Great Wall and I went to back to school. After another full day of classes, I joined my Dad at Crowne Plaza, near the Bird’s Nest at the Beijing Olympic Village, for a farewell banquet hosted by the Hanban Institute. It was an amazing night and I even got to meet and speak Chinese to the Director General of the Hanban/Confucius Institute, Madame Xu Lin. She runs their worldwide Chinese language and culture program in 105 countries. Her first words to us were to my Dad, “We met before haven’t we?” It really was a special night. Then I went back to Dad’s room to study for a couple of hours.
After my dad flew back home, my cold got worse. Now for weeks, I have been struggling to get over this horrible cold, but I think it’s the drastic weather change that is going to keep me sick until I get home. With the intensity of the projects and other homework this week, my only saving grace – going to the gym, will be greatly missed.
This past week, most families back in America had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving. This is a great time to have a break off from all the studying for a few days, and hang out with family. Well obviously they do not celebrate our Thanksgiving, so we had class and had no break of any sort. But last Thursday night, after classes from 8am-4pm (and squeezing in a quick run during my lunch break to make up for the hopefully delicious calories I would be eating at dinner) we went to a cool little restaurant called Nola. To celebrate Thanksgiving, they had a little Thanksgiving dinner planned out. It was good, but not as good as a home cooked meal. These are a few tidbits from the Menu: Crudités with Green Goddess Dressing, Devilled Eggs with Smoked Salmon,Pecan Stuffed Mushroom, Turducken with Giblet with Gravy，Cranberry Chutney, Honey Glazed Carrots & Greens Beans with Almonds, Roast shallots with Pomegranate and Orange, Potato Puree, and Leek & Mushroom Cornbread Dressing. Yes that may sound like a lot, but the portions were kind of little, especially the little hors d’oeuvres (appetizers) that we shared between four or five people. However, as a perk to being the only college student that was already 21, my teachers said I could order wine or beer. For the hors d’oeuvres I had a little class of white wine that was actually good, and then for the “Turducken” I had a Belgium Beer.A fun little quip, on the way home from dinner, we were on the subway and I was sitting down and three Chinese girls blatantly started taking pictures of me for absolutely no reason. The funny thing was that they were so fascinated by my blonde hair that they didn’t care that I could hear their cameras when they were snapping my picture.
Super creepy thing happened last night. I went downstairs because we were going to meet for a group project, and these two older looking Chinese wanted to take pictures of me. I started speaking with them in Chinese, and they started asking me questions like do I work out…what kind of exercises do I like to do? First of all that is creepy…and then they give me their card and it’s not a legit card. On the back of the card it has all the pictures of the cast of the TV show Friends with the signatures. I don’t know, but I got a super sketchy feeling about this. So I hid with one of the guys in my program in the café downstairs. I feel like when things like this happen in the States, it is either because they are actually legit (…rare) or they want you to do 黄色网站.For those of you that really want to know what that means, I will let you put that into a Chinese dictionary.
A lot has happened this week, and I am planning on having a little bit more free time this weekend to write about all that happened. For now, goodbye!