Friday, July 12, 2013

WTB: Day 5, The Chinese Twitter/ Folk Art Tea zzz's

Originally, Wednesday, March 13, was reserved for a trip to the CCTV (China Central Television) building--a huge, instantly recognizable structure in the heart of Beijing that towers above everything else around it.

Behold: CCTV.

However, due to some conference going on at headquarters, we weren't allowed to tour the towers during our trip, so instead we made a last minute detour to none other than the Sina Weibo offices, Sina being the Chinese equivalent of Twitter in the U.S. (except for, you know, the government-run media and strict regulation of the Internet over in China makes for a tad bit different type of media environment than Twitter operates under in America).

                                  Behold: Sina, where everybody knows your @name.

Sina could have been really interesting, but unfortunately the employees took a page from their government's spying tactics and only spoke Mandarin with Jim during the tour, relying on his translations and leading us to believe they spoke little to no English. The other students and I learned later from our professor that in fact they spoke it quite well and were simply listening to us, and to Jim, as we conversed and commented on the offices in English, thinking we were getting away with comments that we really weren't (e.g., the bathrooms smelled awful, which someone in our group mentioned while walking past the website manager). Ah well.

After leaving the Sina Weibo offices, we took our bus down to a road lined with shops and quick restaurants, including some American classics like Dairy Queen and McDonald's. We each got an hour to eat at wherever we wanted along the street...I got a vegetable bowl, but following lunch, I walked with some of the girls to a Chinese pastry shop. There I bought my go-to dessert, cheesecake (China style), and it was surprisingly good! It was a pleasant surprise for this cheesecake-loving girl.

Later in the afternoon, we all went to the Summer Palace, which was nice but involved a lot of walking, and the air was quite chilly that day even with a good amount of sunlight beaming down. Still, I separated myself slightly from the group and found a hidden gift shop that way, where I bought a beautiful little folded fan with galloping horses painted on it for my grandmother. She loves horses the way I love frogs.

When we had burned off most of lunch with our 2-mile walk at the Summer Palace, we caught the bus back to the hotel and had some downtime to relax in the rooms before dinner. Instead of resting, though (which was much needed, I tell you), me and most of my classmates enjoyed another large dinner in a restaurant that was in the mall beneath our hotel. We got several dishes for the table and shared them again, including eggplant, a mushroom salad, Szechuan chicken, a beef dish, Peking duck, and rice.

Once again stuffed, we rolled back to the lobby and waited for our bus to take us all to the night variety show at the Laoshe Teahouse. This was a scheduled show which we attended with Jim and our professors, otherwise I can promise you that me and many of my classmates would've stayed at the hotel and slept that one out.

The show was...quite interesting, to say the least. Some parts were really great and fun; others were quite boring or unnecessarily loud and obnoxious and I just wanted to plop my head into the big cups of complimentary tea filling our tables. Like I said, that nap was something all of us needed and few of us got, and you could see it on everybody's faces. It would have been comical had I not been nodding off for 90% of that show. Still, some old men chirped like birds and made sounds like the ocean, and another performer balanced a huge pot on his shiny bald head, making me wince every second he was on stage, so the show wasn't all bad. It was just ill-timed and made me so so sleeeeepy.

                                           We look alive but really zzzzzzzzz.

I forgot to mention, but on Tuesday night after returning to the hotel, me and about 7 classmates went out to another bar in Beijing and enjoyed some American music and complimentary glow sticks. This one was filled with more people, and more people who were solidly older than us by at least 15 years, but it was still a great time for the short while that we stayed before turning in. This night of the Teahouse show, on Wednesday, we had been planning to go back to that bar area and meet up with some of the Tsinghua students we'd met earlier in the week, but when Jeanine is tired, making new memories with anything but my pillow ain't an option. When we got back, Jansen pushed through her sleepiness and headed out to the bars with some of the other girls for a while, which was perfect for me. I snuggled into bed, flipped on the cable, and fell asleep to a subtitled Paul Rudd in Wanderlust.

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