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The Great Firewall of China

WEEKEND, SPARKNOTES STYLE: First off: I didn’t just climb the Great Wall on Saturday —- I freaking ziplined it. Can I just say, most awesome experience ever. I went to the Simatai part, which was pretty steep1. After climbing for so long, I went on the zipline2, which is a much cooler option than just walking down or taking the 20 minute cable car. Afterwards, I went with some friends to the restaurant near campus and then to a club3 owned by Columbia alums. Turns out that there was a Columbia alumni reception in town the next afternoon, so plans for Sunday were pretty much set! I had a great time at the reception4, and after that, we went to Purple Haze5, a really nice Thai restaurant. I then went back home and after writing a half-hearted attempt of an essay on Xing Ba Ke‘s6 place in the Forbidden City, I then watched the Euro Cup final (oh, Germany, my heart). Three hours later, I went to class not knowing any of the 70 new vocab words7, and now I’m posting this blog entry for everybody to read. The end.


Yeah, I definitely ziplined across that.


That is not I, but rather some random guy that happened to be on the zipline. But you get the idea.


(larger size)


1: No kidding. When they mean “climb” the Great Wall, they really / truly / honestly mean climb the Great Wall. There’d be tower after tower after tower … and the steps! The steps varied from giant to tiny to literally everything in between. Basically, if somebody missed a step and tripped and tumbled backwards, it would be the ultimate domino effect, considering how big our group was. And there would be these ramps, which weren’t a hassle to walk, but there weren’t any walls on the side in the chance that I happened to fall off. Considering how intimidating that wall was, that chance was pretty darn high. And it didn’t help that people nearby were talking about the daily death toll of Simatai. Haha, that was pretty comforting to hear when scaling the sans-side-support ramps.
2: The zipline is basically a trolley. Over the Great Wall. A trolley. Over the Great Wall. A TROLLEY OVER THE GREAT WALL (!!!). The wall overlooked this beautiful lake that literally looked like jade. I was harnessed onto a cable that ran above the lake, and I would glide along the cable. The view was amazing and totally worth the climb down and the 40 RMB.
3: Basically, we were looking in the Beijing guidebook, and when we saw a photo of a guy in a Columbia sweatshirt, we were pretty much compelled to go there. Funny how things work out that way.
4: I credit the amazing food (cucumber and tuna rolls, tiramisu-in-a-spoon, samosas in mango chutney, strawberry tartines, et al.), but in all honesty, I did meet some awesome people.
5: Yeah, I thought of Hendrix too.
6: Xing = Star. Star Ba Ke (when said aloud) sounds like a certain all-too-familiar coffee chain that starts with S and ends with tarbucks.
7: Oh, I kid you not. SEVENTY.
8: If I killed your feed / flist or just your browser in general with the dialup-unfriendly pictures, feel free to e-shout at me.

Curious eye, furious sky

YOU GUYS. The wine flavoured Pejoy is really good, and I mean really, really good. Pejoy is basically reverse Pocky1, and I’ve bought so many boxes of tiramisu, cheesecake, matcha green tea, red wine, and chocolate. Not to mention, I’ve bought so many snacks2 in addition to this. If only American prices weren’t so inflated. ๐Ÿ™

This Saturday, I’m going to the Great Wall3, provided the weather is nice enough to go. It’s been so rainy this week!4


1: Um, if you don’t know what Pocky is, I am terribly sorry because you are missing out. They’re these snack sticks dipped in icing. It’s a rather simple concept, I know, but if you’ve had it, then surely you know how good it is! And Pejoy, which I somehow can’t seem to find in the States, is the snack stick with icing inside. Which is an equally brilliant concept. Basically, if you are totally unfamiliar with Pocky/Pejoy, then I suggest you go to an Asian supermarket, go to the snack aisle, and buy it!
2: Snackwise, China is amazing. Lay’s potato chips come in flavors like cucumber, aromatic crispy chicken, Italian red meat, and lychee. LYCHEE (!!!). The Chinese tend to get rather creative with the snacks, which can be both delicious and … bizarre.
3: SiMaTai portion of the wall. I heard it’s steep.
4: The bright side of the rainy weather is that the afternoon isn’t humid at all. I can tell when it’s going to rain, because the weather is breezy and nice. The haze makes it a bit hard to tell, since you can’t see the ominous storm clouds lurking in the sky.

Aerial, aerial!

Dude, is it just me or does every photo that I seem to take look inexplicably … bad whenever I switch computers?1 I’m on my flickr, and everything just looks gross.

View outside the plane. The thing with Beijing’s skyline (or lack thereof, I suppose) is that it’s hazy … like crazy (rhyming skills, let me show you them!). Seriously guys, good luck finding the sun if you ever venture out here. Until we were really close to ground level, the view from the plane was completely white.

My classes are intense like none other2, and I hardly have enough time to spend in the computer lab. We do one ke wen3 per day, with about 40 new vocab words to learn. Every morning, we have a ting xie4, followed by a review / discussion of the new ke wen. Some of the questions that I get asked5, I can’t even answer them in English, go figure. After the lesson, we have a drill session, which is a discussion session of sorts that integrates our newly learned vocab. Again, questions about current events … and dream lovers.6

After the lesson, we have an hour for lunch. The cafeteria food is pretty good7, and it’s really inexpensive! Same applies to most food here, which you can get for less than 1 USD.8 I kind of dread going back to overpriced, stingy portions of American food.

After lunch, we have 40 minutes to prepare for our tutorial.9 The tutorial is two-part: one part is conversational and the other part reviews whatever I’ve prepared in the past 40 minutes. I’m not really sure what to make of them, since I rotate teachers every day. In one tutorial, I was quizzed on the next lesson’s vocab out of the blue. Needless to say, I failed quite miserably. But most of it is just small talk, so it’s not as hard as the morning lesson.

… and after all of that, I’m done around 3 pm. I’d type up a lot more about my (mis)adventures here but I’m terribly hungry, so I will post later! Hope all of you are doing well ♥ ♥!

P.S. I do apologize if the photos are making the LiveJournal flist or feed load slowly. ๐Ÿ™

P.P.S. Several blogging sites are banned in China, such as LiveJournal and Tumblr.

1: Bad = grainy, compressed, over-sharpened, et al. Grainy can be good in some cases, but not this one.
2: Either that or I’m lazy. Or both. But seriously, lessons then drills then two-part tutorial??? My brain does not like.
3: Lesson / unit / text, whatever you want to call it.
4: Dictation — the teacher reads off a sentence in the text, and we have to write it word for word in Chinese.
5: “What do you think of China’s one-child policy?” “What kind of policy would you enact to reduce Beijing’s highway congestion?” “Do you think China’s industrialization is shortening or widening the gap between the rich and the poor?” — asked in Chinese, of course. Which increases the difficulty of answering by tenfold.
6: Yeah, no kidding. One of the questions involved us describing the ideal qualities of our “dream lover.” (class: Wait, what.)
7: But then again, I’ll eat just about anything. Except most things involving tomatoes. And onions. And leeks. Which I suppose does make me a fussy eater now, but shhh.
8: No really, I kid you not.
9: Preparation = reading the next lesson and studying the vocab. Unfortunately, 40 minutes doesn’t even suffice when reading just the first page.