what i like

I’m in Beijing, have registered for classes at Beida, and will be taking a placement test on Friday. I’m not really sure about this test; Beida has some kind of weird system for its classes’ proficiency levels which doesn’t correspond at all to the standard set by the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (Chinese Language Proficiency Exam); if they were using the HSK standard, I’d be High Intermediate, but judging by Beida’s textbooks, I’m going to be Advanced, or maybe, like, Super Advanced.

My apartment, in the Haidian district, is super-nice; it’s near Liudaokou, is about 10 or 15 minutes’ bike ride away from the Beida campus, and is a block and a half away from a Pricemart. Someone watching me getting groceries today would have seen me reduced to a state of catalepsis by the variety of products that were unavailable in Harbin: Bacon! Olive oil! Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate! Cheeses – for what a friend we have in cheeses – in the Gouda, Cheddar, Blue, and Philadelphia Cream varieties!

Yessir, I think I’m going to like it here.

Here’s what I really like about Beijing most of all:
That I went to a Sichuan restaurant near my house and ordered food and drink, and was treated no differently from any other customer.
That when I’m out with my girlfriend, and am trying to buy or say something, I don’t get ignored in favour of her.
That yesterday, I biked to my university, registered, and then went out and walked around – and went unnoticed.
That today, I walked around and nobody cared.
That as I go around this city, I am one of many, and that nobody gives a flying fuck.

Comments (16)

  1. wayne wrote::

    I would normally say, “Yeah, but wait until the winter. We’ll see how much you like Beijing” but shit, you spent last winter in Harbin. You probably could walk around in shorts in Beijing during the winter.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2003 at 2:11 am #
  2. Brendan wrote::

    Nekkid. I could walk around buck. ass. nekkid.

    Nah, probably not; I didn’t get used to winter in Harbin so much as just get into the habit of wearing so many layers of clothing that I was rendered immobile.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2003 at 6:19 am #
  3. Uncle William wrote::

    Should I say welcome home, or welcome back.

    Sorry I missed your going away phone call.

    Beijing sounds more like a western city, if you
    walk around naked people will give you change.

    Have you considered a career as a cab driver

    Thursday, September 4, 2003 at 3:24 am #
  4. scott wrote::

    One more thing…. When I was at Beida, I tested near the top of the hanyuzhongxin (somewhere around band 15, on a scale of 1-20), and I just ‘ru xi’ le (entered a deperatment, the Chinese department). Inside the Chinese department, most of the classes you can reasonably take are filled with Korean and Japanese undergraduates learning Chinese, although you might be able to take classes outside of the Chinese department, that end up being with Chinese students (I took history and computer networks).
    Having that flexibility is useful… and the hanyuzhongxin is usually pretty staid language stuff (with 20 hours/week of blah). The HYZX people often end up making friends with lots of interesting foreigners, but little contact with locals/Chinese.

    On the other hand, if you don’t care about credits (and it doesn’t seem like you do), then it might be useful to not full-time it through the HYZX, and try to work out some independant/flexible stuff with teachers in departments that are flexible…).

    There’s an ‘American Film’ class that is pretty fun… not only will you have a bit of a home-field advantage, it’s amusing to bust out laughing while the rest of the classe doesn’t get a joke, and it is a nice way to think about home every once in a while.

    Also, I don’t know if course schedules are online, but back in the day, there were very few actual course listings around the school, and you HAD to go to the right places (wall postings, etc) to figure out what classes were available and where. I hope they have it more easily accessable now (either purchasable, or on the net), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t… You might want to give them a look over, and copy down anything interesting. Be careful, they used to cut off the room locations of classes after the second week (to prevent crashing?) — make sure you write down the room number ;)

    enjoy yourself,


    Friday, September 5, 2003 at 5:49 am #
  5. donny wrote::

    “for what a friend we have in cheeses” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. i’m probably the only person who thinks that’s funny, but that’s b/c i can see u singing it while throwing various cheeses into ur grocery cart.

    Friday, September 5, 2003 at 7:22 am #
  6. Gran wrote::

    glad to hear about the placement results. we will have to call you Waldo. Love

    Sunday, September 7, 2003 at 1:38 am #
  7. Gran wrote::

    glad to hear about the placement results. we will have to call you Waldo. Love

    Sunday, September 7, 2003 at 1:38 am #
  8. Prince Roy wrote::

    how did you find the apartment? Did you use a real estate agent or was it through friends?

    Sunday, September 7, 2003 at 1:42 am #
  9. Brendan wrote::

    Scott – yeah; I opted not to do that this semester, but I might during the spring. Right now I’m not quite confident enough in my Chinese to take regular university classes. (Although if Beida offered a major in ‘Topics in Whether or Not I Like Chinese Food/Girls/Cities/Customs, and Other Pointless Small-Talk,” I’d be all over it.)

    Donny – thanks for commenting about that; I was wondering if anybody other than me found it funny.

    Roy – online, actually; my girlfriend and I compiled a list of possible apartments before I went back to the States, and then she called around while I was away. I think we found this one on Soufang.com.cn, but I’m not sure.

    Sunday, September 7, 2003 at 3:23 am #
  10. matt wrote::

    amen to that! actually being able to walk around anonymous in Beijing really kicks ass.
    I’m happy for you. Hmm olive oil and bacon…you lucky bastard. I had M&M’s in Tianjin today before I came back to BoTou, it was heaven…but I dropped ONE on the floor AAARGH WHAT A WASTE

    take care

    Sunday, September 7, 2003 at 10:56 am #
  11. alai wrote::

    Perhaps it’s because you’re in the university area and not out in old-people land, but I recall not getting stares (as did other classmates of mine). Nothing like those of Harbin, though.

    Monday, September 8, 2003 at 3:30 am #
  12. Andrea wrote::

    Does Beida hanyuzhongxin offer any courses or program on modern chinese litereature to foriegners? If so, is it difficult to gain admission to it?

    Oh, by the way, do you know of any cramp schools for the Chinese Language Proficiency Exam? (I’m asking this for a friend…I still couldn’t understand why people are interested in writing this exam…isn’t a degree in chinese a good proof of one’s knowledge of chinese?)

    Monday, September 8, 2003 at 8:35 am #
  13. jennifer wrote::

    congrats on everything brendan. hope you blow them all away eventually…not in the death and dying context of course.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2003 at 4:16 am #
  14. Giles wrote::

    I agree. Sometimes I feel I want to go unoticed. I live in HK, so that happens quite alot! However, when I go to China particularly Zhuhai people stare quite a bit. By gf says it’s because I’m so “leng” but I don’t believe it!


    Wednesday, September 10, 2003 at 12:35 pm #
  15. Brendan wrote::

    Andrea – there are, I’m sure; there are quite a lot of private Chinese schools around town, and since the HSK is used as the standard (as opposed to different university curricula, which vary wildly), I’d assume that they tend to teach to that.

    The Duiwai Hanyu Zhongxin does indeed have a course (at the advanced level) in Modern Chinese Lit – I’m planning to take it. I don’t know how intensive it’ll be, but it sounds interesting. For in-depth studies, though, it seems that (as Scott mentioned) ru xi is the way to go, as you’d be taking actual literature classes.

    Thursday, September 11, 2003 at 12:48 pm #
  16. niubi wrote::

    i remember when that pricemart opened on xueyuan lu – around 1996 or so. never got a membership myself, but occasionally went with a friend who did.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003 at 5:44 am #