Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beijing China, Baby!

So, I don't know if you've ever heard of "the Great Fire Wall of China," but it's quite annoying - the government has blocked youtube, blogspot, and other sites deemed "inharmonious." Well, I tried a bunch of things to try and get around the block - proxy sites and firefox add ons - but none of them worked. A bunch of us were all trying to get around it and one of the girls figured out that you can use your school's wireless to access blocked sites because it tricks the fire wall into thinking your computer is in the US and not in China so it can't block it. Anyway, that's all settled now.

I'll admit, I was a little down when I first arrived in Beijing. I was tired, cranky from the lack of sleep caused by my delayed flight, and the smog was so bad it looked overcast and misty the whole day.

However, the sun is out now and I've been feeling much more cheery, it's in the 90's and very humid. I wish I would've bought more flow-y clothes. The dorms aren't bad, but you can't flush toilet paper so that's been taking some getting used to. This is tmi, but there are lots of squat toilets here (in restaurants and other public restrooms) and I'm wondering how they go number 2.

We have to take our temperature every day to make sure we don't have swine flu and one girl had to go into quarantine because there was a confirmed H1N1 case 2 rows in front of her on the plane she flew in on, but she wasn't sick or anything so I think she'll be ok.

Enough of the boring stuff, we took our placement tests and I'm in 260... I think I should be 300 but if I study hard I'll still be able to test into 400 level Chinese when I get back. Plus, my listening comprehension isn't too great so I'll be able to really focus on that. This morning we went to Jingshan Park and did tai chi, I didn't do the knife one in the following video because I decided to walk to the top of the hill of the park.

Here are some nice views of the temple/gazebo thing at the top and of the forbidden city behind me:

There were tons of old people doing crazy-cool things in the park: people playing what looked like hacky sack with a ball with feathers on it, people doing tai chi, people stretching, writing characters with water... and on and on. There were some things I didn't understand too much either, like this:

Here are more pictures of people in the park:

After the park, we walked through the hutongs near the center of Beijing. Hutongs are older neighborhoods that are set up with small alleys with entrances to multiple walled-in houses. Some are pretty old and run-down, but there were some more affluent families there too. Here are some images of those:

Unfortunately, I think that's all I'll go over for today, even though there was more. I'm going to a banquet soon with our teachers and we all get to get dressed up. I'll have to post all my pictures somewhere so you guys can see everything. Now that I've figured out how to post again, I'll be able to update more regularly.

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