30.12.2010 - 03.01.2011 -7 °C
Were the words of two Korean boys who approached us at the Summer Palace yesterday. A little shocked, Jordyn and I tried to ascertain in Chinese exactly waht they wanted to know the price of- surely we weren't being openly approached as prostitutes or drug dealers? Turns out they wanted to know the time, which was a welcome relief.
It has been a whirlwind of crazy adventures China side over the last few days. We have now experienced KTV (karaoke) a major pastime here- we made like locals and went to one a little off the beaten track, fully decked out with the requisite tacky neon and even 'cave' themed rooms. There was Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Disney, Taylor Swift, Usher- Jordyn, Jess and I sang and danced the winter cold (and our massive dinner) away and almost certainly scarred the staff for life.
New Year's Eve dawned bright but very cold. Friday excitement was in the air, personified by a bubbly Jordyn who ran into my class during break only to find my teacher mid-sentence as we were still avidly learning (cue embarrassed flee from Jordyn and much amusement from my class). After a morning of grammar-heavy class and an afternoon of hectic shopping, we were smashing the coffee at 5pm and dreading venturing back out into the cold. We had a huge dinner and then more KTV (we are practically Asian) before hitting up a local nightclub. We fought our way through the dancefloor, found a prime position and cut loose. The music was all western and great for dancing- I had soon rushed to the bathroom to stuff some unnessecary thermal layers in my shoulder bag, and a pair of tights or two. Dancing with a lovely blonde girl from Germany, Jasmine, who is in my class at uni, we certainly made quite the impression- while a student frequented club, we were still three of maybe 5 caucasian girls there and soon became quite adept at using elbows, hips, and even fists to remove unwanted male attention. However, we found a spot on the stage well within the eyelines of the take-no-prisoners bouncers stationed around the dance floor, and our unwanted male admirers dropped away. Had an amazing time, and will probably become Friday night regulars- nothing like hours of dancing to destress after a week of hard study.
On Saturday we headed to Silk Street after an amazing lunch at Jess's grandparents- a famous shopping market, i.e a complete tourist trap. Catering purely to foreigners, I could finally shop without feeling like a monster due to my inability to squeeze into a size zero. However, the prices reflected the increase in size range, but Jordyn and I were ruthless- being able to barter in Chinese certainly worked in our favour. Silk Street had everything from jade jewellery to Gucci wallets (the real deal, of course), fur coats to tailor shops, random classmates from uni to shedloads of Russian tourists. Jordyn even found herself a potential girlfriend- a petite female stallholder was quite taken with her; 'I like you! Do you like me?'
Yesterday we collected cameras, packed our lunch, put on our walking shoes and set off for the Summer Palace, one of Beijing's prime attractions. A half hour taxi ride from our apartment and still well withing the city bounds, the Summer Palace was a royal retreat back in the dynastical days. A man-made lake that is entirely frozen over, delicate, vividly-coloured temples, stunning imperial era buildings jutting out of a hill overlooking the lake with its myriad of islands and relaxed tourists strolling on the ice- words really can't describe the scope and serenity of this oasis (though that may be because my english has been increasingly struggling as I load insane amounts of Chinese into my poor brain). We wandered over bridges and through temples, clambered up circa-1700's stone steps and slipped across the ice. Tea that cost more than our average meal chased the chill away, warming our hands as we nursed the flimsy cups and watched children and adults alike playing on the ice. We finally wandered out past the stone lions dutifully guarding as the sun disappeared, somewhat regretful to leave such a place.
As the weeks slip by and days disappear into a blur of class, sleep, sights, and mighty cold weather, we are starting to get a panicky feeling that it will be all too soon that we have to pack up and leave. With the sense of desperation that brings we are embracing everything- the weather will not hold us back, and neither will class, or poor language skills, or anything at all.
Happy New Year to eveyone, hope everyone is well!
-Below snaps are all from the Summer Palace, bar the food which was lunch with Jess's family, and one of the most delicious meals we have had so far.