Monday, September 10, 2012


First job on Monday was to find breakfast (do my disappointment, we ended up at McDonalds) then head to school. To my delight - as a beginner to Mandarin, my only responsibility on Monday was to register and pay my fee, while everyone else took their placement tests. But this didn't take very long so we had most of the day to explore! Paying the tuition fee by the way, could only be done in cash, so I had to take out 3000 Yaun today (£300) which was half and would do the rest tomorrow.

First of all we took a taxi to the tube station - during the rush hour, big mistake! You can see that bendy-buses fight with taxis for the lanes (which are rarely obeyed) and the whole thing jams up for about 2 hours every morning and evening! A note on driving in Beijing - I think that the drivers here are really, REALLY skilled. Their situational awareness is immaculate, especially using the mirrors, and they know exactly how big their vehicles are and can squeeze into any gap. Once you see beyond the complete disorder, you start to respect the drivers themselves. Oh and they do all this while smoking, chatting on their phone, texting, or just being completely relaxed with their shirt pulled up to the armpits and bellies hanging out (a sort of heat exchanger?). The horns are used frequently, and generally mean 'I am here' which is precisely how they should be used! No aggression is carried - there is little road rage and no-one gets flustered if they get honked at. However you are completely at their mercy when using the pedestrian crossings - I have now learnt to just walk across the road at a constant pace and not flinch if a car heads directly towards me or accelerates to go across the crossing before me!

Anyway, we took the subway across town, I have no idea how or where but we ended up walking for about half an hour to get to the Temple of Heaven and the surrounding beautiful garden. As well as being a very pleasant tourist attraction, and relatively not busy on a Monday lunchtime, it was quite clear that we were also surrounded by quite a few tourists from outside central Beijing. How do we know that? Well, Beijingers are very used to Westerners strolling around and you don't get much attention. However, here there were quite a few people genuinely staring at us, taking photos of us either discreetly or very overtly, and on a few occasions, asked to take photos of us with their friends, or children, or similar. I thought it was weird and amusing but a couple of people in our group really didn't like it!

Our next destination was back to Tian'anmen Square, this time to see the square properly. It is a huge structure, 109 acres, of pristine stonework, flagpoles, statues and just wide open space. The Tian'anmen gate to the North and the Monument to the People's Heroes are visible from everwhere and it is a very impressive site. You can read more about the square and the events which it was home to via this link: We stopped a while and just chatted about China - about the eye-watering gulf between the city rich and the rural poor, the one-child policy (which most Chinese public are in favour of, and I can really see why, despite being such a controversial policy) and other experiences from those people at the UIR who had been in China much longer than me.

So we then headed back towards our University and prepared to go out for the evening. It was the birthday of Iolo, one of our group, who requested that we found a Korean restaurant and also went clubbing. Neither of these things happened but we still had a good evening in the nearby district of Wudaokou ( First we went to an (admittedly Korean-run) Mexican restaurant:

Left to right are Ann (English), Iolo (Welsh, birthday boy!), Carmen (Australian), Leslie (American), Jennifer (Australian) and Liz (American). People you can't see here are Itka and Aisha (Polish), Leol (Israeli), Benedikt (Austrian), Jasper (Dutch), Corinna and Alisa (German), Ken and Kiko (Japanese) and yet others, from all over the world, all here to learn Mandarin but with vastly different levels of experience!

Iolo and I then took on Zimbabwe in a doubles pool match. The guys from Zimbabwe seemed to be taunting us and twice were left with just an easy pot for the black ball, even offering to concede. But we made them take the shot, and both times they fluffed it, giving us the chance to claw back and win! Always goes to show - the game ain't over til it's over... We headed to a club but it was deserted so back to the hotel we went. After all, school tomorrow!
Posted by Picasa

No comments:

Post a Comment