Friday, 3 September 2010

And so begins the Chinese part..

Beijing is, in short, the most insane place I have ever been. My first impressions of the place were not good; after exiting the huge and rather sterile airport late last night I was greeted by a warm smelly fug and a slightly dangerous-looking taxi rank with impatient drivers rushing up and braking just at the last minute and stewards ushering people across the melée in order to get into a cab. This, I realised was less dicey than what was to come: our taxi driver seemed to have a death wish and took us at break-neck speed along the expressway, weaving in and out of the other cars and hooting repeatedly at drivers to get out of his way. A few nerve-shattering moments later, we arrived at Xijiao Hotel, our temporary home in China whilst we sort out our university accommodation. The hotel, from which I am currently writing to you, is rather pleasant, especially so given that it is only costing us £19 a night. One thing I must share from my room is this slightly Enid Blighton-esque sign, which apart from being amusing shows how easily a language can be slightly mistranslated and how nuances can unwittingly be introduced to make a simple message sound strange or dated.


But anyway, I digress. This morning we decided we may as well bite the bullet, ignore our jet-lag and go to the university to register. The four of us assembled, bleary-eyed, in the entrance of the hotel and ventured out into a rainy, muggy and very busy Beijing in an attempt to locate Beijing Language and Culture University. After a long detour we realised that it shouldn't have been more than about ten minutes' walk from the hotel but if nothing else it was a good daylight introduction to the city. What followed next was hours and hours of tedious form-filling and waiting in queues, at times to be told that in fact we should've been in a different one. However, we can now say that we are registered students of BLCU complete with accommodation in the university's much sought-after international students' halls, Building 17. Knowing this fills me with a great sense of acheivement as I now feel that I am free to enjoy the experiences China has to offer without having to worry about the red tape any longer. And believe me, red tape is in no short supply round here!

Dinner was a rather haphazard affair; we decided to eat in the hotel's restaurant which, although in a very nice setting with even nicer prices, had a food menu purely in Chinese characters which we barely understood past the indications of what kind of meat they contained. (Speaking of meat, I have now broken nearly two years of vegetarianism in order to have manageable eating habits in China: apparantly they don't understand voluntary meat-free diets here and the only way to 'do' vegetarianism is to explain that you have a health condition.) Anyway, we guessed that the easiest way of ordering our food would be to ask the waitress for one pork, one beef, one lamb and one fish dish.. how wrong we were. The entire workforce of the hotel seemed to make an appearance at our table to voice their opinions on which dishes would please us the most and after a lot of bickering between the staff, four dishes arrived complete with two little bowls of rice. The meals were delicious, and even though I couldn't quite remember which meat tasted like what (I was under the impression that I was eating pork until I was told it was lamb), we had rather a tasty dinner. The only issue I currently have with Chinese food is chopsticks; it seems my many trips to Wagamama's in Birmingham have not provided me with enough training to use these ancient implements and I spent a lot of the meal getting rather perturbed that my food would not cooperate on its journey from bowl to mouth.

And so we are taken up now, where I am currently sitting at the desk in my room writing this post and sneaking past the Chinese government's blockage to visit Facebook. An update, I'm sure, will follow shortly, but until then: 再见!


  1. Hmmm, sounds fun. :D YOU ARE A BAD VEGETARIAN. But apparantly good at prioritising between upolding what you see as a morally justified diet and not starving to death. :)


  2. Wow! Sounds amazing honey! And lets face it... the best news is... you're eating meat! Food of the Gods! Kidding.

    Your hotel door sign is actually mildly threatening. Should have an 'or else' written at the bottom.

    It's gonna be so damn weird without you this year, don't worry though we'll look after Keshi. >:D

    Keep us updated darling! I concur with this Umber... WRITE MORE!