Weekend Wandering

The weekend flew by in a blur, like a hot dusty sandstorm that lifted us off our feet and dumped us in a heap on the ground. In my case, it also dumped me in a coughing, sneezing heap on my couch/bed, probably because Saturday was really really hot (scheißewarm), and the temperature fluctuations when going from subway to outdoors to subway again was probably what did me in. At any rate, I’m self-medicating, eating well, cooking myself batches and batches of green bean soup (it’s supposed to be good for recovery!). I’m well on the road to recovery; there’s no need to worry Mum, I can take care of myself.

Friday: After a tiring week of work (alas, ’twas too soon to celebrate; we clearly had no idea what we were in for this week) Brady and I wanted to get our groove on and hit up some clubs, and so we headed two subway stops down to Wudaokou, where we met up with some other Stanford interns in Beijing. After an awesome dinner of 生煎包 (sheng1 jian1 bao1, fried dumplings with soup inside), 小笼包 (xiao3 long2 bao1, similar but steamed), pork-cutlet-over-rice, and red date cake (fluffy, moist goodness), and after much debate, we decided to head to Sanlitun. Along the way, we passed (what seemed like) a never-ending line of Camaros with the same decal proclaiming them proud members of the Beijing Camaro Club, there must have been at least 15 of them!

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Galina, an intern at Microsoft who was also here in Beijing studying abroad Spring quarter, showed us around and introduced us to the Mojito Man — great mojitos at 15RMB, or 2.5USD! Que Pasa’s got nothing on this guy. We then adjourned to the Bookworm (书虫), a pretty cool bar + bookshop, where we chilled on the roof till we had to leave for the last train. After a particularly exhausting sprint through never-ending corridors and up countless steps, the bunch of us living in Haidian district managed to make our connection, but just barely! I ended up shedding my flats and running barefoot for the final stretch – this girl definitely needs to exercise more, and she’ll make an effort to go running when the air quality is good!

Saturday: Slept in till about 10, then met up with Bryson, another intern with the Stanford China Internship Program, at Wudaokou for lunch and bike-buying after. Bryson keeps a blog, too, which you can check out here! 🙂 After lunch, we walked over to Tsinghua University (清华大学) to buy bikes, and for Brady and I, to check out their campus. It’s a really impressive and huge campus, and I found myself liking its architecture and green spaces.

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ImageThe two lads, taking a stroll in the summer (hot as fuck) sunshine

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ImageDoesn’t this remind you of MIT? It was the season for graduation, so we guessed that these guys were taking graduation photos.

After purchasing our bikes (mine was but 200RMB – if it doesn’t get stolen by the end of summer I’m looking to sell it for cheap! If you’ll be in Beijing in the fall let me know!) we chilled in Bryson’s dorm for a while before biking to Wudaokou station, where we parked our bikes, and then headed to the nearby Summer Palace 颐和园. Our senior intern and co-worker, Yan Wenlin, had just finished his schoolwork, and so he decided to join us and show us around.

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ImageAs designers and engineers, we marveled at the wood-joining techniques and patterns.

ImageThe view from way up, proving that Beijing can be quite stunning when ze decides to be not-smoggy

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Later, we stopped at a small pavilion to rest our legs and take in the view, chatted, and learned more about our senior intern co-worker, Wenlin. Even though he creeps me out a bit (actually, quite a fair bit) sometimes, I must say that I deeply admire his ambition, his drive to succeed, design & engineering skills, and principles. He’s now a second-year Master’s student. He told us he put himself through college by tutoring other people, by designing printed circuit boards, and through scholarships (half of the amount he donates to other people who similarly need it). I mentioned how I hope my parents can come to my graduation next year, to which he replied that during his 4 years of high school, his family never once came to visit and never attended his graduation. And that his parents’ wish for him was for him to be independent and able to live on his own; that this was also a form of love, tough love. While I understand tough love, and I can understand not visiting during the school term, I couldn’t help feeling a little sad – graduation still is something that comes once in a lifetime, after all.

Later, as we were leaving the Summer Palace, we happened to observe a scene that really illustrated what we had just talked about earlier. We heard a little girl crying, and so turned to look. Turns out that her parents had left her on one end of the courtyard, and were beckoning at her to walk, all alone, across the vast (for a toddler) courtyard towards them. She was bawling and bawling as she teetered towards them, and at one point she sat down, and wet herself. But she kept going (though her father had to come closer to guide her the right way), and eventually made it. Wenlin: “If you always cradle a child in your hands, the child’s never going to learn how to stand on their two feet.” I definitely had mixed feelings while watching the whole scene unfold – I remember thinking that that must have been very traumatizing for the child. A while later, though, she was laughing and bouncing around with her playmate, having overcome this hurdle, and it seemed that my worry was pretty much for naught.

We then headed back to Wudaokou, where Wenlin brought us to eat dumplings with his friends at the nearby 中国地质大学 (China University of Geosciences). Brady definitely stood out like a sore thumb, but no-one seemed to care. The shop was filled with local students, the dumplings were delicious, and it was good to hang out with new friends and chat, in a mixture of English and Chinese. As it was too late, we left our bikes at a bike storage at Wudaokou and took the subway back home instead.

The next day, I fell sick 😦 We headed to Wudaokou for lunch, picked up our bikes, biked about 45 minutes to get home, and I basically passed out on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. Since we were both lazy and I was in no condition to go anywhere, we ordered take-out for dinner on ele.me (wonderful wonderful food-delivery service, with delivery free with minimum purchase), which arrived in about 20 minutes. We took our dinner down to the big communal square in our apartment complex, ate while watching elderly and middle-aged women line-dance, and finally did a little dancing of our own, swing-dancing to their last song of the night. 😀 I’ve really missed dancing, and it was great to get into the swing 😉 of things again – I can’t wait to find swing and salsa clubs in Beijing!

… and that was our hot dusty sandstorm of a weekend. Here, have a photo of Wenlin and Brady:

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Lastly, something that caught my eye, and then my breath (I hope I’m not butchering the layout; the enjambment is so very beautiful and it works so well):

HERE IS A FLOWER THAT NEEDS NO WATER
by Pooja Nansi

You with the cracks running through you,
I know you think you will never be whole enough
to fill the leaky holes of someone else’s heart.

You with the fractures in the places that teach you how to love,
the fissured kisses and the broken cart of wishes,

You with the sad blue of goodbyes hidden always behind your
eyes.
You, releasing those constant yearning for the lost choices of
yesterday sighs,

You with the thunderstorm that you carry in the heart you’ve
jammed close so hard,
all the words in all the world couldn’t pry it apart.

You with the overcast laugh. You with the fists that open only
in your sleep
marked with lines that looks like irrigation tracks to a land
where you are clearly

lost.

Stop. Look at me. Breathe.

My lips are not cement and they cannot seal these wounds
but I am here, palms held open and I
love you.

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Weekend Wandering

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