China/PKU: Day 1
Today is the end of day 1, I guess, of my trip.
We didn’t take any classes today, just a few orientations about living in our dorms, what is expected of us, etc. Went on a tour of the campus. The tour itself was not too big of a deal for me, personally, because my cousin in law showed me around last summer. But PKU is a remarkable university. It was originally built right at the end of the 1800s, at the turn of the century. Several buildings still reflect the architecture of the time (keep in mind, this was a time when the Qing Dynasty was still in power, so there was an Emperor still ruling at the time). The scenery is absolutely beautiful though. So much greenery around campus, the lake is really stunning, as well as the pagoda. I mean, how many schools have a huge lake with a pagoda on campus? The campus itself is also rather huge. Safe to say it’s tens of times the size of UC Irvine, probably tens of times the size of UCLA as well. I mean the sheer size alone allows for the lake and pagoda and greenery to be there without taking up too much vital classroom space. Absolutely stunning campus, very traditional.
After our tour and stuff, we had to find the dining hall that our undergraduate student tour guide pointed out to us. Actually, there were several dining halls and cafes on campus that we saw during our tour. There were various stores too, selling water, ice cream, refreshments, etc. There was even a mini convenience store! Hopefully that will provide some better prospective of how large the campus is for anyone who is reading this. To find the dining hall, we basically backtracked our entire tour. Even using the campus map, it’s hard to navigate partially because some buildings don’t have large signs that say the name of the building, so we couldn’t really pinpoint where we were on the map either. After wandering around, we finally found the dining hall.
Food was an interesting situation. I loaded 100RMB onto my student ID, because the dining halls and cafes on campus don’t take debit card/cash. And for the dining halls, rather than a swipe in like we’re used to, each dish or whatever has a certain price. It’ll be rather cheap, but dishes are priced and stuff. My meal came out to about 6RMB, which is close to 1USD, not too bad for rice and two dishes.
I also learned a lesson about reading characters too. The dishes had names in Chinese, telling you what was in it. But I didn’t notice. I grabbed a dish with some green vegetable and egg in it, figuring it was a normal Chinese dish. When I sat down to eat it, I ate some egg first with my rice. I thought it was a bit spicy, but not too bad. I proceeded to eat the vegetable…holy shitit was so flipping spicy. I guess it was some sort of pepper or something (trust me, it didn’t look like a pepper at all, looked like a regular leafy green). Holy crap…downed my water, ran to the counter to buy another drink. Never again…for anyone reading who doesn’t know, I don’t eat spicy…
We had dinner at the same place too, but it was more restaurant style upstairs - it was an EAP event, not “lunch on your own” sort of deal. Not too bad…we had some Peking Duck, but it wasn’t the best. I’m not a big fan of duck, but then again, it’s not too bad at all. Drank some all right beer (Yanjing), but I prefer Tsingtao. No refrigerators in our rooms, so even if I buy some beer to keep here, it’ll just become warm - weather is 95+ outside during the day.
Following dinner, a few of us (Chris, Will, and Steven) went to look for Carrefour. We had to take Will to the Airport Express subway line, because something happened with his luggage. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I know the subway here pretty well. Since I visited Beijing last summer, and stayed here for about a total of 2 weeks, I went on the subway every day. It’s pretty simple to navigate…it’s fast (if you’re going like 10+ stops away it’ll take a while, but faster than walking and cheaper than taxi!) and pretty fun if you ask me. The subways are pretty new, actually. Lines 1 and 2 were the original subway lines built in the 80s or something and it wasn’t until the 2000s when all these additional lines were built. Obviously, more lines were built because Beijing had won the 2008 Olympics bid…it’s truly remarkable to see how quickly the subway system exploded. There are about eleven lines total now, with additional lines/stops being built. To put this into perspective, when I first visited China in 2001, there were only Lines 1 and 2. Eleven years later, there are nine new lines with so many new stations/stops. Eleven years is a long time, but it’s almost an entire new line a year, which is pretty impressive given how many stops there are. But to be honest, I don’t really have a point of reference for subway building time frames.
Anyway, we took Will on the 4, transferred to the 10, and after close to 8 stops, arrived at the Airport Express line, and dropped him off. Taking the 10 back to the 4, we went to an area near my cousin’s place. There’s an 85 (the bakery…) like 3 minute away from their place, so we visited there. Chris and I are both from Irvine, so we were like “aww yeah!”, Steven is from Seattle/UC Berkeley, so he was like “wut”, but yeah, pretty fun. Eventually found the Carrefour (a hypermarket chain - not a supermarket, but a flipping hypermarket LOL)…we were on the B1 level, trying to find food/soap…all they had was like furniture, bikes, etc. After looking around for a while, we finally found the escalator to take you up to the 1st level, which had all the food and stuff. Oh man, so many things, so good, so cheap.
I had a good first day, I’d say. I’m tired AF from all the walking, but it was nice to bond with people. I dunno, I’ve grown so close to APO people that it felt and still feels strange to be out of touch with them (kind of), and not be able to see them/hang out. To be honest, I was kind of lonely Saturday and Sunday…although I had my cousins and cousin in law, they were busy too. They have their own things going on, we all got to hang out and stuff, but when I was at the dorm by myself, it was kind of lonely. But it’s been getting better. Not too bad, really.
The dorms here are great in that although it’s a “triple”, we have our own bedrooms. So we have one common living area with a “dining table” and a TV, and we have three bedrooms, one for the each of us, and one shared bathroom. Each bedroom is private, has a desk, bed, closet thing (like in the dorms, not built in closets), and a night stand. Almost everything is lockable too, so it’s pretty neat! The view from my room is amazing too…I’m on the 10th floor and I can see quite a bit! Pictures on facebook later.
I am once again living with a Korean roommate :P haha. I miss Min btw LOL. But he’s from Korea, studied on San Diego for 6 months, and has been here at PKU since last August. He’s moving out this August though, as his program concludes. My other roommate is Japanese, actually. Straight from Japan, doesn’t speak English, but speaks Chinese pretty well. We don’t see each other too much, since they seem kind of busy with their school work, but once their tests are over, we’ll probably chill or something.
It’s about 11PM here now, so I will be heading to sleep soon. One of the benefits of being here, I guess, is that there’s no Facebook activity or AIM or whatever to make me sleep late. I mean I guess I could stay up to 3AM here and it’ll be like 12PM in the States, but it’s summer! No one is going to be online to talk to me from like 10AM-12PM there!
I’m happy though. :) Dinner with my cousin and in law tomorrow night, they live here so we’ll eat well for sure!
Will post pics soon.