Saturday, March 13, 2010


I'm well back from my trip to Hangzhou and Nanjing with my class, and pictures are posted on Facebook. Overall, it was a pleasant, uneventful trip. I'd already visited most of the sites we visited in Nanjing, but Hangzhou was totally new to me. The West Lake, perhaps the most famous, most written-about lake in China, sits right in the center of the city, so we got the chance to take a nice evening walk around the lake and a brisk morning bike ride across the elaborately decorated causeways that span across it.

We also had the chance to take a hilly hike through the tea fields in the highlands above the lake. These fields produce some of the finest tea in China, though unfortunately we came before the picking season had arrived, so we only got to try the year-old stuff. Still very good though; I can see why it garners so much attention from those with a real taste for the stuff.

We were fortunate enough to have the Chinese lantern festival fall during our stay in Nanjing. People celebrate this lunar calendar holiday by crafting mini-hot air balloons out of paper on which they've written their wishes for the new year. Then they light a candle suspended within and let them fly away. We saw relatively few of those floating about, but they still made a pretty surreal scene. The (perhaps less traditional) but far more in-your-face event of the evening was the series of stalls and activities near the Confucian temple at the center of the old town. Stalls were everywhere selling ice cream, roasted mutton, congealed duck blood, fried doughy cakes, and candied hawthorne berries (糖葫芦). Combine that with the mad consumer flair to the scene (nearly everyone is wearing a pair of light-up teddy-bear ears, devil horns, or some other flashy five kuai bling), and you're in for a good time. As a case in point, my buddy bought this sick hat. It doesn't get much better than that right there, folks.

As for nowadays, things have been going exceptionally smoothly. Everyday I wake up at around 6:30 or 7:00 and take a light breakfast of dumplings, rice porridge, and a hard boiled egg at the cafeteria while studying my characters. My literature class of four students and one professor starts up at 9:30 and goes until lunch. At 1:30, our Chinese class of five students and one delightful Chinese teacher meets for two hours. After that, the day is mine! I study, I hang out with Lili (we watched the film 'To Live', 活着, the other day, and I can't recommend it enough), and make dinner with Shushu. Not bad at all.

It's funny that living here in Beijing has in some ways become mundane. That's not at all a bad thing, though. Living here really feels like living here; I have deep-rooted relationships with people here, a family that looks out for me, and classes I find very satisfying. And since my parents have moved out of my hometown, and I don't have a permanent address back in Fort Collins, I might as well call Beijing home. I like that.

Next weekend, it looks like Lili and I are headed out to Tianjin, a large city about an hour-and-a-half outside of Beijing by train. It's supposed to have some cool colonial architecture which sounds worth checking out. But, to be honest, I'm more relishing the opportunity to go traveling with Lili. She gets to practice her tour guide thing (sidenote: she has officially received her tourism permit, which is great for her work prospects!) and I'll have a guide and a friend to haul me around to see the cool sights and give me some perspective. And it's a great excuse to share some good memories. I can't wait.


  1. I find it interesting and not at all upsetting that you feel like a Beijinger now! We all move on--and Fort Collins will always be your hometown. Enjoy this semester and say hello to Lili and ShuShu for us.


  2. PS, would you get me a good recipe for dumplings, please? I know Nai Nai is not likely to part with hers, but maybe Lili knows a good one.

  3. If I put myself in a box and mail it to you will you drag me around with you? :)

  4. I think I would've like'd another semester abroad. Not in beijing anymore but I dont think i know my Chinese roots well enough and everything sounds awful romantic through your pink shades.

  5. I'm serious about the dumpling recipe. ;)