Whew, right over my head. The first day of class I was happy to find that Cynthia was in my class but as this is my first time learning Chinese exclusively in Chinese I found the first day a bit challenging. Good though. I found out I'm B level. A level is beginners and B level is for those who know about 1000 words. I'm psyched! I know a lot of the vocabulary and the grammar but listening and speaking are hard which is exactly why I'm here. 2 Italian girls in the class said our class was too easy and they tried to move up to B+ but were kicked out after about 20 minutes. Apparently it's made up mostly of Koreans who've been studying Mandarin for years. Pretty funny though, other people has been promoted/demoted to our class so by the time they got back there weren't enough seats for them.
Classes are from 8am to noon so Cynthia and I decided to check out Tienanmen Square later in the afternoon. It was a beautiful large square. Not much going on though. Just people hanging out taking pictures in front of Mao and some flying kites. A bright beautiful big space though. We decided to hit the Sanlutinan bar area to enjoy the rest of the night. We took the metro and walked for about 20 minutes near where I had initially stayed in Chaoyang, Beijing. I'm keep getting shocked by just how modern a city Beijing has become. The streets are wide and clean - well everything is clean compared to India. The metro are busy and efficient and the people here seen very well off. I've heard that this is very different from much of China but I think the world will be shocked when they are drowned by information on this city when the Olympics roll around. At dusk, groups of people turn up at random open lots and practice tai chi,ballroom dancing or a strange beautiful dance with what looks like a small badminton racket with a ball balanced on it.
Sanlutinan is a long street with side by side bars and restaurants. Definitely a place to see and be seen. We had a few happy hour drinks and took in the atmosphere. I stomach is still a little off so i ordered a Caesar salad and ended up with something with big chunks of ham and potato. I sent it back wondering what i was thinking ordering a Caesar salad in Beijing. I'm gonna have to get used to those ramen noodle soup cup things. They are very popular and very cheap. we headed back to the dorms by cab and as I walked up to my dorm I realized that my Beijing book was gone. Ugh. How irresponsible. I thought about grabbing a cab back to the restaurant but that would have been almost as much as just buying a new one and I needed to get to bed to get up early to catch the bus to the great wall. A very unhappy way to go to bed.
I met up with Cynthia, Yingtan, Joanne and her visiting boyfriend early before getting on the bus to the Great Wall. It was a free trip given by the school snuck into our school fees somewhere I'm sure. About a 2 hour ride on a very comfortable air-con bus up to part of the great wall. I was disappointed first to find out that the Great Wall is not one long continuous wall but broken up into smaller parts that at one time were connected. I was then devastated to read that the Great Wall cannot be seen from the moon. It's a weird urban legend which the Chinese more than anyone were proud of until they sent their own astronaut to the moon in 2003 and he reported that he couldn't see anything. The guide took us up 30 minutes of stairs to reach the Great Wall. We were all a little jello-y after that. This may be a small part of the wall but it still looks like it goes on forever. It was beautiful but a little hot. The path along the wall winds steeply up and down and up and down. We walked a little way but weren't sure where the next path down was so we just hung out looking at the view and taking pictures before heading back down to the known path to the bus. It started raining about half an hour after we started back and the soft patter helped me dove off with the rest of my tired classmates.
I spent the rest of the weekend close to the dorm trying to shake this bug and studying Chinese. I met a nice guy Duffy at the school bar. I was going to study but he was super nice so we just chatted and drank cheap beer. I also checked out the school gym. There's a pool and a badminton court - very popular here but I think I'll skip signing up. Bikes are only about $10 to $20 dollars here so I think I'll pick one up and relearn how to ride. Cynthia bought one and had it stolen the next day so I'm going to make sure I'll get a good lock as well. I will surely send a picture!