Living Laowai

Beijing No. 2

Views at Peking University

Navigating new cities, trying to overcome language barriers, getting over jet lag, eating new foods, getting used to new environments and attempting to create or find moments of comfort despite the newness is what makes traveling hard. Going into this trip there was another factor of newness to overcome- C, M, B and I had not known each other before signing on to spend the summer together in China. Just as we had to get to know Beijing we had to get to know each other. I found though that nothing creates as strong a bond between people quite like getting lost in the narrow and curving hutong or accidentally eating incredibly spicy peppers at fancy suppers and trying not to explode from the heat or ending a long day of learning by sitting squished together on one bed eating M&Ms. Our first week in Beijing was filled with these moments of getting comfortable with both the city and each other. It was exciting, rewarding and tiring (in the best possible way)!

All of us at Peking University

After our night of luxury we relocated to the Downtown Backpacker’s Hostel located in Nanluoguxiang. Nanluoguxiang is located in the old part of the city, characterized by its well-preserved hutongs and traditional architecture. It is a large tourist destination but still maintains that feeling that you are surrounded by people just living their everyday lives. We instantly fell in love with the hostel and the neighborhood.

The hostel felt like a refuge to travelers, there were signatures of past residents scrawled all along the walls, a large kitchen and a cozy common room where we met a family that was travelling across the world together, fraternity brothers from U.C. Berkeley, an older German man doing some solo travelling and another Canadian student who was spending her summer backpacking through Asia.

M and her ‘Peanut Milk’

This inclusive atmosphere transferred directly to the street outside. No matter what time of day there was an amazing buzz of energy. In the mornings the shops would begin opening as carts full of fruit and vegetables beeped their horns trying to get through the narrow street filled with other cars, bikes and scooters. Later on the street would fill with foot traffic, everyone holding bottles of water, popsicles and fried squid on a stick all while turning their heads every which way in an attempt to soak it all in. Once it got dark the street was impossible to walk down without accidentally bumping into shoulders, stepping on toes and narrowly avoiding getting hit by rogue scooters. Each time we walked down the street that week we noticed new things, there was so much to see but also it took so much concentration to not walk into other people/things that we were always somewhat distracted from our surroundings.

At the 798 Art District with the lovely alum

That week was jampacked with scheduled activities. Some highlights included: meeting with alumni from our university who kindly took a day to show us around, feed us and show us where to buy groceries. This really helped all of us feel more settled in Beijing and got us really excited about all the new and exciting snack foods available in China. At lunch M ordered a Peanut Milk expecting a cold glass of milk to go with our spicy food. What arrived was a big, delicious frozen surprise! (see above) We spent a day at Peking University meeting with B’s adviser and other students at the university. We had a day to explore a Confucian Temple, the Yonghe Lama Temple and St. Joseph’s Church. B and I also managed to make it to a talk at Beijing Normal University.

Yonghe Lama Temple
Details of Yonghe Lama Temple
The Confucian Temple
St. Joseph’s

After such a big week we were all feeling a bit tired but very excited to travel to Zhengzhou!

Language Lesson:
nǐhǎo / 你好: Hello
Notice the two third tones!