Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Arrival in Beijing

Excerpt from Jared:

I made it to Beijing in one piece. Did not sleep much on the flight but Continental had tons of movies and laptop plugs which made up for the more than cramped quarters. I was met at the airport and given a packet of information that I leafed through a bit while a cab was hailed and instructed. On the way to Peking University, I was really amazed at how clean the city was. It’s my theory that they cleaned up the place for the Olympics and have just kinda maintained it since then. I offered my cab driver a peppermint that he happily accepted. In return he pointed out various cites of interest as we past. His Chinese explanations were lost on me, I had about two years of Chinese in undergrad but it’s rusty now and I was never conversational. Never the less, I appreciated the sentiment.
At Peking U. Hong Li met me, paid my cab fair and helped me get checked in. I dropped my bags off and felt desperately thirsty so I met up with Matt and Dave, swung by a convenience store, and then strolled the campus. I had my “beyond tired” wind at that point so was good to go. I was really surprised at how beautiful and verdant the campus is. Having spent time in China before and seeing other schools, I expected bland but functional Russian style buildings. Instead, nearly all of the academic buildings are in a more traditional Chinese architectural style with the dorms, in Russian/Communist style, squeezed around the outside fringes of campus. We strolled around the small lake on campus (pictures attached) then waited back in our rooms for Alisha to get in. When she got here we found a place on campus for dinner, then headed out to one of the few parks on campus where we enjoyed the nearly cool evening and talked.
Sunday we got to meet Dr. Sun and his staff, discuss the class, and go out to lunch with them. Hong Li then took us to the metro, helped us get the Beijing version of a SmartTrip card, and took us to the Silk Market so my roommate could get some clothing (the airline lost his bag). The Silk Market was a capitalist experience with very insistent shop keepers. I made a promised myself that I wouldn’t buy anything, and held to that. I did get a good feel for the “real” cost of things. For example, I was quoted 1200 RMB for a t-shirt that seemed interesting. As I moved on, the shop keeper continued to call after me rapidly declining the price, eventually getting down to 30 RMB. I also found, through experimentation, that you get quoted better first offers if you ask and bargain in Chinese than if you do it in English. So, future travelers, learn how to ask for a price in Chinese, how to say something is too expensive, and your numbers in Chinese.
We explored the city after that. The whole thing is laid out on a grid so it’s very easy to get around. We stopped at an ex-pat bar for a bit, and to get some cold, spicy, noodles from a sidewalk stand. The noodles were delicious, and cost 4RMB a bowl (about $.50). We trekked back after that, and I crashed by about 10 or 11. Looking forward class on Monday.

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