So the "in" thing to do around Beijing is to wear graphic tees that have English phrases on them. So far, the greatest hits include "US Marine Crops," "I want your trashy passion," and "Undecided Mustache." What may end up happening is that the title of each of my blog posts will be a phrase from one of these t-shirts.
My living situation: I actually can't remember what I posted so far, so bear with me if any of this isn't new information. The apartment that the orchestra provided for us is quite nice. It's technically a 2-bedroom with an office, kitchen and large living room. I, being the only single individual of the group, get the office. Chris and Brittany are sharing the bedroom with the queen bed, and Kyle and Keyondra are sharing the room with a king bed. I have a little love-seat thing that folds out into a small twin bed--this situation will have to change. Luckily, there is an IKEA not too far from where we live and once I get my first pay-check I am going to invest in a nice queen-size bed, an air-conditioner (because my "room" doesn't have one of those either) and air-purifier. What I do have, however, are two nice, tall bookshelves that I'm using to hold my music and clothes. The desk will eventually be moved into the living room once the bed gets here.
|Our flat-screen TV and coffee table.|
The apartment is completely furnished; the living room has a leather couch, leather love-seat, coffee table, 24"X36'' flat screen TV, and a large dining table. The kitchen has a two-burner stove, but no oven (they're not really popular here). There's also a nice refrigerator and a dish-disinfector (it dries and heats the dishes and sanitizes them after they're hand-washed, but it doesn't wash them). We'll (Key, Chris, Kyle, and Brit) be investing in several of those giant office water-jug thingies because we also have the corresponding water dispenser. For now I've been saving my small plastic water bottles and refilling them with 10-minute-boiled water.
Learning the Language: Yesterday (Thursday) Mrs. Wang Xinyi took us to the Wangfujing Dajie (wáng fǔ jǐng dà jiē) shopping district. There is a Foreign Languages Bookstore here that sells cookbooks, fiction and non-fiction literature, maps, DVDs, and Chinese-language learning tools/books. I bought a small Vegetarian Chinese Cookbook for 30￥ (about $4.50) and a mandarin text workbook for 68￥ ($10.50). Afterwards, Keyondra (whom I shall call Kiki from now on), Chris, and Brittany and I strolled down the rest of the street (about a mile long). The entire district is an up-scale shopping center (think Ferrari, Gucci, Lamborghini, Prada, etc). Brittany and I settled on some Jasmine tea from a popular tea shop (which I later found is a chain store that can be found on literally every corner... like Dunkin Donuts in Boston, MA). We left for our apartment at about 5:30pm.
Traveling: The best and cheapest way to get around Beijing is by subway. It's about 5 or 10 cents (American) per trip (but we also suspect they charge based on the number of transfers... haven't figured it out yet). You swipe a subway card at gate both on the way in and the way out (we think that's how it tracks the number of transfers). When you need more swipes, you go to a kiosk at the station and and pay the clerk more money to have the points added to the card. Having never lived in a city with a subway, I can only assume that this is pretty normal.
It takes about 50 minutes to make the entire commute from our apartment to the Central Opera house. On Wednesday we left at 7:15am and the subway cars were PACKED!!! Chris and Brittany managed to squeeze onto the first train, but Kyle, Kiki and I had to wait four more trains! And even then, we were literally shoving people aside to fit on. It was hot and crowded and a little smelly. We have since learned that 7-8:30 is the worst time to try and catch a train. In the future we will leave much earlier to get to work. Or take a taxi. When it isn't rush-hour, however, the subway is very pleasant and and the trip goes rather quickly. Another item I shall purchase in the near future is a bicycle. There aren't really any bike racks anywhere, but people kind of go on the honor system and leave them all in a row outside their apartments and subway stations. Riding a bike to our station will cut off 10 minutes from our commute, and aid us when we want to get around town without hailing a taxi. I want my bike to be pink! (Or blue... haven't decided, though I can guess that Rachel is rooting for Blue).
Food! The food here is absolutely wonderful! At first I thought maintaining a vegetarian diet would be difficult, but it's not! So far I've found Vegetable Ramen noodles, soy milk, cheerios, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, skim milk, bananas, onions, garlic (very important!!!), potatoes, carrots, peanut butter, jelly, handmade bread, and tea. I'm still working on stocking up my foodstuffs; I hope to find Tempeh, beans, and more veggies. Things I haven't bought but recognize are Coke, Pringles, Lays, various candies, butter, every kind of meat you could imagine, yogurt, baking supplies... basically everything but cheese. And from what I've read, when you do find cheese it's very expensive (think $15-$20 USD for a regular package of Kraft). The store I mainly buy from is called "Wu Mart," the upper level of which houses beauty and health products and household products (toilet paper, cleaning supplies, dishes, cooking utensils, some clothes, linens, etc). The whole thing is kind of like a small Meijer. Minus the cheese.
Eating Out: My first night in Beijing (Sunday the 12th) we went to a Korean restaurant around the corner (by the Wu mart) where we ate a traditional stone-bowl meal. They heat the entire bowl (which, yes, is made out of stone) so that the rice and noodles and vegetables get all crispy and yummy in their sauce.
|Jing Huan and Brittany trying out the food.|
|What was left of the chicken curry.|
|Eels in a red sauce.|
|Very spicy mixed vegetables with whole Sezchuan red peppers.|
|Ma Po Tofu.|
|Bean curd with ham in a yellow sauce.|
|Liya, Kyle, and Charlie (in the background).|
|My plate, chopsticks, and the mixed veggies.|
|Chris, the model.|
|Me, standing in the Sanlitun district.|
|Kyle and Kiki in the Sanlitun district.|
On Wednesday we went out with Jing Huan to a restaurant that specializes in whole roast duck. The table ordered two ducks, braised eggplant in an awesome brown sauce, roasted-herbed bamboo slices, traditional leafy green cold plate thing (I have no idea what it was, but it was good), and shaped tofu filled with a seafood pate (i took the seafood out and gave it Kiki). For dessert we had green bean ice cream (I liked it, but it definitely was different), and an assortment of traditional Chinese sweets (mostly bean pastes wrapped in a dough) and Lychee (an awesome fruit that has a bumpy, thick skin that peels like an orange but tastes more similar to a pear, but not really...).
|At the duck restaurant.|
|Lychee, the Chinese fruit.|
|Keyondra and Kyle eating Green Bean Ice Cream. Mmmmm...|
|I am a chopstick professional.|
|Yummy green stuff with yellow bamboo shoots.|
|Shaped tofu with seafood center.|
|Carving the roast duck.|
|The table setting with condiments for the duck.|
Thursday I cut up potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic and added them to my Ramen noodles. And, today is Friday so who knows what the future will bring???