(Or, Jordyn's response on first learning snakes can swim and then considering what one would do in a swimming pool)
Another very hectic week has flown by. My teacher, helpfully, drew a calendar on the board Friday morning to illustrate just how little time we have left, circling the remaining 8 lessons in red chalk and crossing out the days already passed with blue. While I was sadly absorbing this information and daydreaming of a more rebellious Lucy, who would chuck the towel in on Melbourne University (in 5 weeks we have covered the entirety of next year's Chinese course) and sign herself up for semester upon semester of study here, my attention was suddenly snapped back to my teachers artistry as I saw (in yellow chalk now) "kaoshi" being decisively written on the last 2 days of the course- exams! Concentrating intensely now, I soon figured out that we have both oral and written exams in the last week- hours of shopping, sightseeing, relaxing with some Chili Peppers (hopefully making up for previous Shakira references) and a Chinese Vogue (Or 3. $1 each. Seriously), went *poof* before my eyes. A hurried conference with Jords in the break later:
"Ohhhhhhh I have EXAMS in the last WEEK!! EXAMS!!! ORAL!! WRITTEN!! GRAMMAR!!! Arggggghhhh oooooh kill me nowwwwww" (no prizes for guessing which of us that is)
"ME TOO!!!! *insert similar death throw type noises*
"So, are we going to study?"
Call us not dedicated enough, (though after 6 hours of study a day if you dared to do that I might maul you), but we are in Beijing, baby, and have been working our tails off. The weekdays are university's domain, but our weekends are our own and we plan to make the most of them, kaoshi or not.
Friday night dinner came around we we headed to our fave, a hotpot place called Xiabu Xiabu. Having been there a few (ahem, 6) times, we felt pretty pro at the ordering game, though Friday brought an additional challenge- Jordyn desired a mango juice. Lacking the word for mango and/or juice, we decided to randomly choose two drink items, and hope one of them was mango and I figured I'd like whatever the other was, thinking along the lines of soft drink. Alas, only Team Lucy and Jordyn could make such a rookie mistake- a pitcher of finest Chinese beer was soon weaving its way through the tables to a non-drinker and someone who doesn't like beer. Luckily, it was accompanied by a mango juice. The ordering chaos continued with we decided we wanted noodles- and while the beer ordering was on my head, the ordering of 'flour gluten' was on Jordyn's- small balls of mysterious puffy bread stuff. I dove right in, and caused a small child and his mother sitting opposite me to almost fall off their chairs in hysterics when I choked and almost died. According to Jordyn, the lady's face as I conveyed the bread ball to my mouth was one of increduality, so I was probably a. not supposed to eat it, b. not supposed to eat it like that, c. not supposed to stab it with a chopstick due to my inability to grasp spherical objects or d. all of the above.
The rest of the weekend has been nothing short of insane, starting off with another night out at our pet nightclub Solutions that continued well into the early hours of the morning. We drew even more stares than usual setting off for our Friday night out, as seeing how hot we got dancing last week, and given the close proximity of the club, we went out in dresses- bare legs, no coats, no scarves, not even a solitary pair of gloves in sight. Men stopped their bicycles in the streets to berate us about how we would catch a cold, girls penguin-huddled with their friends as if to stave off the cold for us. Giddy on the high of a successful afternoon shopping and a week of completed study, we laughed away as we cemented our status as 'crazy foreign girls.'
With a shopping list longer than this blog entry in hand yesterday, we headed off for another very famous shopping market in downtown Beijing. Success was had, and by success I mean bags upon bags upon bags of electronic goods, backpacks, hoodies, jewellery- absolutely everything you could think of, they had it at cheap cheap cheap prices. For example- I am a dedicated user of a certain brand of ear bud headphones, my current pair of which are a little beaten up after constant tangling, stepping on etc. In Australia, a pair of these babys would cost me $90. Yeah. When I spotted them yesterday, with a squeal of delight, I confided to Jords- 'Oh, if i can get these for $40 each, I am getting TWO!' The shop assistant scrutinised the proffered packet, looked at his calculator, and offered.... $40. For two. As his starting price. Once I had him down to $25 for the BOTH I felt morally obliged to stop (though I could have gone lower) and also to find whoever sets the prices on these in Aus and beat them.
My German friend Jasmine joined us and we piled in a taxi to try and find the famous Donghuamen Night Market. When he dropped us off on a seemingly empty back street we were a little concerned, but after hurried map reading we strode off, laden down with bag upon bag of shopping and no real idea of where we were heading. Still wandering a few minutes later, I was squaring up to find someone to ask when a couple clutching toffeed fruit sticks passed us, noted our evident confusion and offered laughingly; 'Just keep going.' Sure enough, about 50m later we wandered into the most ridiculous culinary experience of my life thus far. The street was lined with stall upon stall (see picture, then extrapolate as this place was MASSIVE) upon stall upon stall of penis (yes, go back and read that again, it says penis), snake, scorpion, fried banana (which I tried), sea horse (which I did NOT try) and many other foodie delights. Between us we had noodles, dumplings, smelly tofu (which was horrendous), traditional Bejing deserts (also horrendous) fruits on sugared sticks, some crazy almond paste thing- wandering up and down, we each had dinner several times over. We watched a British guy try scorpions- his verdict: 'Tastes a bit like french fries!' However, that favourable review was still not enough to entice any of our trio to try some, and we hailed a taxi, struggling to fit 3 very full girls (this one in particular still clutching corn in one hand and toffeed strawberries in the other) and their shopping spoils. Once we had got established that the taxi driver did actually know where we wanted to go, we settled back for a 45 minute ($5) tour of Beijing by night, during which I amused Jasmine with my German- complied from the German version of 'So Fresh', Eurovision and my little sister, she thought I was hilarious.
This week is our last full week of study, and will involve a kung fu show, trying to book train tickets for the only time of the year it is apparently impossible to do so, more home cooking (with a microwave, chopsticks, one knife, two fry pans and unlimited imagination, see photo) and maybe, just maybe, some study for the dreaded kaoshi.
Much love, as always,