Something I forgot to add! At Hou-Hai there are all kinds of snacks, foods, and drinks. Here, even though I've seen cotton candy spun before, was very interesting because of how she made it, and what she spun it with. 
So again excuse for the late update... I'll probably be saying that a lot more. Professor Zhang's Chinese language has not only been extensive, but excruciating! It's about 6-7 hours a day of just Chinese, so there is little time to run around, let alone update frequently(with a sub-par internet connection). Regardless, this the second time in Hou-Hai, a very affluent, foreign, trendy bar spot with a night life that can rival ANY city. It is also close to the world famous narrow alley ways known as 胡同(Hutong). The significance of these "small, living lanes" are that they used to be the conduits of Old Beijing; the very veins of the older city. It is where people lived, worked, and traveled before the end of the dynasties. It is really a nice place today, especially after walking for 3 hours previous to coming, as we did. It is a man-made lake in the middle of the city, out the north side of the Forbidden City. It was just part of the royal grounds that has been converted into a park, that you can even rent a boat on!! Which is exactly what we did. I hope you enjoy the scenery as much as we did :).

"When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world" - George Washington Carver

So this was a fascinating escapade. District 798 as it's known to the locals, has to be my favorite place in Beijing by far :). During the Cold War it used to be the central factory area of Beijing. The most unique about this place is though, some 25 years later it has been converted to be the artistic heart of Beijing ever since its inception. There is just graffiti and art, by definition, littering the sidewalks and walls, but none of it... is bad. In America graffiti and tag is usually seen as a negative thing or something that people in gangs do, thus making it of a lower-class nature(so-to-speak). But the feelings I got( and hope others get too) are not those of fear or ignorance, but more so... enlightenment. During the Cultural Revolution stuff like this was forbidden and shunned, but now in the very capital can you find things like this!? To me, that is remarkable. The art galleries(although pricey) were fantastic. I recommend ANYONE who is in Beijing to tell your cab driver 七九八区, and get whisked away to an amazing piece of Beijing, that(I believe) has become the essence of what this wonderful city will become. Pictures are worth more words than this entire webpage, so I'll let them speak :) 

Inner peace...
So, first and foremost I'd like to apologize for such an agonizingly long time in between updates. It has been most difficult to secure a stable connection as well as, help my friend deal with a rather frightening sickness, and see her home safely. I will now be updating regularly!! I have LOTS of stuff!
The picture to your left is my Shanghai friend and me in Shanghai railway station. There are multiple things wrong with this picture and I'll point them out. 1) My BLONDE classmate and I are in SHANGHAI railway station. 2) This station is where most of the migrant workers leave for their hometowns, and where there are not too many foreigners, much less blonde ones. Needless to say, we got a lot of stares. 3) We're meditating in a train station, on towels(more stares??).Now before I go on, I want to establish that I am not badmouthing immigrants, or the railway, or anything like that. These people are hardworking, have families, and are just trying to scratch(a very difficult) living. I am only saying that, to be a minority, felt...bizarre. In America we frequently take for granted the plethora of faces and colors we see on a day-to-day basis. But what happens when your face is the only face not congruent in the crowd? Who do you look to? There is no reassurance, especially with the fact that my Chinese is pretty much deplorable. We can't blend in, how would we? We look perfectly like foreigners.
           Buying a ticket in China is FAR different than that in the U.S. My advice: Don't wait till the last day, expecting to catch a train that night, because most likely it'll be sold out. The railways are the most highly used transit system in China, followed closely by metro, and (soon to be surpassed by) the car. We had to suffice with an early 动车, or "Fast-Train" at 7:10 am on Saturday morning; AFTER we our stay was up in the dorms on Friday night :\. So for some reason, something possessed my friend and I to attempt to stay the night in the station. But around 11 pm things became real strange, and my friend Karen(the one sitting with me in the picture) insisted that we stay the night at her house. Her mother and she... were just ridiculously kind and again fortified my belief that Chinese people are some of the most hospitable people on this planet. Her mom, no joke, was like a living Buddha, and she WOULD NOT let us leave until we had enough water, food, and money for a cab. Truly I could not have been more humbled. Well.. that's the train ride... and I'll let you see for yourself where 11 hours on a train can get you ;)

*Disclaimer*- For the video below, yes I look like complete crap and I'm not sure if I had a fever. However, from the distance traveled above... you can understand why I look terrible ;)


    This portion of my trip is where things get better; get interesting. I'm on my second wind in Beijing( a city I definitely prefer) and I'm ready to buckle down and learn some Chinese!


    July 2011
    June 2011