Thursday, July 11, 2013

WTB: Day 3, Reuters/ New Friends

Despite the morning fog, Monday quickly became a beautiful day. The sky stayed thick with smog all day, and I could taste the dust in the air by nightfall, but I will always remember that day because I saw more of true Beijing living in that evening than I did the rest of the time we were there.

We began our morning in the Beijing offices of the Thomson Reuters news agency, a tall building
which seemed to be composed of nothing but windows. The desktops in each office were cluttered with papers and files, as desks in newspaper offices are wont to do.

Our gracious host, foreign correspondent Terril Jones, led us around the office and spoke to us in a lounge with wall-to-wall windows and a soda machine. It was a beautiful office space, even somewhere I could've seen myself working, if not for its 3,000-mile distance from all the things I love.

Still, it was an enticing building, with walls so shiny white and clean that it was hard to leave. We had a small lunch at Costa in the building's lobby, eating coffeehouse sandwiches and sipping hot macchiatos. I sat with two other girls, and we chatted for almost an hour about future life goals and our college/ personal lives. It was a relaxing afternoon break amid our busy schedule.

Following lunch, we boarded the bus again, heading for Tsinghua University, or what has been dubbed by some "the Harvard of Beijing." The campus definitely lived up to this title...while I've never toured Harvard, I imagine the gorgeous (bare) tree-lined bike paths and breathtaking architecture of Tsinghua could hold their own against the Cambridge campus pretty marvelously. Once we arrived, we got to sit-in on a class in the journalism school and interact with students from all around the globe. Besides Chinese students, the class was host to young adults from Turkey, Israel, Russia, Thailand, and Holland, just to name a few. Like I said, Tsinghua is a pretty renowned school.

After the class, we took pictures and exchanged emails with some of the students (unfortunately, no Facebook in communist China), and then we got to do our own thing. While everyone else in our class caught the bus back to the Grand Hyatt, our professor Lars allowed us to hang around campus and catch a cab back later if we wanted, so Jansen, myself, Hannah, and Misha did just that. One of Misha's friends from the U.S. was attending Beijing University for the year, so he met us on campus and we all walked to dinner together. We walked around the city for a while on foot, enjoying the sights and sounds more fully knowing we were completely schedule-less for the evening, and Misha's friend brought us to a delicious restaurant he knew for dinner. In China, most meals are ordered by one person for the entire table, and several plates are ordered from which people share....kind of like getting a bunch of appetizers and splitting, but the portions are like Thanksgiving-sized. They feed you well over there.

Her friend was living with a host family, and Misha wanted to interview his host mother for the stories we all had to write following the trip. We all tried to catch the public bus, but that was a no-go because of huge crowds, so we tried to stop taxis on the street. The one thing I can't emphasize enough about China is that the driving there is horrific. The taxi ride to host family house felt like a movie car chase scene at the time, and now I remember it as if it were a video game car race...scary fast, scary close to other moving vehicles. Yikes.

At the house, we met the mother and little girl that Misha's friend was staying with. The woman didn't speak a lick of English, but Misha spoke broken Mandarin and her friend could also translate. The woman was so kind to us, offering us little candies, apples, hot water (they drink it hot over there!), and other sweets. Leaving her house, I felt so warmed to Beijing. We were leaving an apartment complex after 9pm in a foreign city, in a foreign country, with candies in our pockets and smiles on our faces. We had to catch a taxi by ourselves and show the driver our cards written in Chinese which asked him to "please take me to the Grand Hyatt, Beijing." My mother would've died if she knew I were wandering like that at night, but it was so refreshing for just that night.

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