Day 1 Adventures!

Complete with pictures!

Several of us woke up early this morning (couldn’t have slept in even if we wanted to, internal clocks are still off) and had breakfast at the dining hall.  I wish I’d taken my camera – it was too early to be in tourist mode, I guess – the breakfast was WONDERFUL. And different.  We had something that tasted like grits, but looked more like a soup, a boiled egg, a sticky bun (some of ours had custard in the center!) and a Chinese version of collard greens.  Yep, collard greens!  I hope we have it again so I can take a picture.  It was a really tasty breakfast, and a little homey thanks to the southern influence 😛 Then, we took the bus down a few stops to the mall where there was a Carrefour for us to get some living stuff and also do some general shopping.  I got groceries! Here’s what I got:

On the far left is some bread called Coconut Toast, some crunchy peanut butter (necessity), some Beijing Beer, and Kellogg’s Cheerios! I also purchased some white bread, face wash, and clothes hangers. All of that cost me ¥125.90, which is about $20. Not bad, eh? The 6 pack of beer was about $3.50, #win Yes, fairly cheap, but don’t worry Mom and Dad, I’m not planning to ever move here. It’s very similar to New York City in terms of cleanliness, except more dusty since it rarely rains.  That also makes it very dry here, so my eyes have been even more of a red, squinty mess than normal.  The sky was consistently a gray/brown color, which I assume is from all the pollution, but the sun DID come out as we were coming back from our dinner at the dining hall, so maybe we will see our beloved Carolina blue sky another day this week 🙂  It’s also very similar to NYC in terms of the people and traffic.  LOTS of people and LOTS of cars, complete with excessive horn honking. Speaking of horn honking…

This is a sign outside of one of the buildings we’re living in right off campus from BRS… I assume it means no car horns 😛 The driving here is very… chaotic, and not very organized.  For example, today our bus was turning from a 3 lane road left onto a 2 lane road… there were 4 rows of cars attempting to get onto this 2 lane road at the same time.  It was really silly.  But, the little cars would slide right on by without a scratch. Just a lot of honking horns. I have a feeling I will be immune to them by the time I come home. Also, there were very few damaged cars… I don’t remember seeing any, actually. hm.

For anyone that hates wal-mart on any given day, you may have literally curled into a ball and died during our visit to Carrefour today.  It was awful.  What’s worse is the language barrier… there were lots of employees at the store with microphones attached to little speakers on their belts who were yelling in Chinese about some product they were selling.  They also stopped us frequently to offer samples or to tell us personally about the product they were selling.  Luckily, upon realizing I didn’t know enough Chinese to even say, “Sorry, no thanks,” they generally left me alone (that is, until the next guy 10 steps away threw his pitch at me).  It was hard to find anything, since everything is in Chinese and I was forced to rely on pictures, but I managed to get the necessities.  Checking out was a little stressful, simply because I don’t want to do something silly and lose a lot of money for lack of counting, but it all turned out fine.  The people I’ve encountered here have been very understanding and accommodating, and not offended when I butcher their language or speak English to them.

The bottle of water I drank in hopes to hydrate before our adventure proved to be an unwise decision… and I think I picked the most occupied, most heavily used restroom in the whole mall.  Public restrooms in Beijing are different.  There is no toilet paper.  Even better, there is no TOILET.  It’s a commode-like bowl that is level with the ground, and you squat over it to use it.  I was expecting all of this thanks to our meetings building up to this excursion, but nothing could have prepared me for the smell.  It was AW-FUL.  The ‘toilets’ don’t flush, I guess they just drain as they get used… and there was cardboard leading out of the bathroom to help soak up the, uh, liquid that was being tracked out from the stalls.  Like I said, disgusting.  I hope I never get the opportunity to see another one that unclean, but I will take a picture of SOME restroom when I get the chance – I know you all want to see it 😛 We had lunch at KFC. Yea, I know, why did I come all the way to China to eat American food?  You shut your mouth, it was more cultural than any of the other meals I’ve had so far.

They had chicken sandwiches, which Rachel and Jonathon learned were made of dark meat instead of white meat upon their first bite.  I had some kind of meat on a stick, with chunks of gristle shoved on the kebab as well, and the star-shaped thing in my tray is a fish fillet (haha! get it! Star Fish!) Like I said… very interesting experience. The woman at the counter saw us browsing the menu and yelled, “HELLO!” to us, and proceeded to help us through our order in broken English 🙂 we were SO grateful.

Well, I was obviously right… definitely not going to have any trouble finding things to write about from here on out 🙂 I’ll wrap up this post with some pictures from the rest of our day.  Tomorrow we are planning to go to the Temple of Heaven and to visit one of the markets. I’m sure I’ll have lots more to talk about!

The mall we visited!
Rachel, Julia, Dave, and Me outside of the mall

What I learned today:
1) There aren’t really laws protecting Chinese school buses, and many school officials  here are jealous of the laws associated with American school buses.
2) There isn’t a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in Mandarin, it is contextual. For example, if someone asks, “Do you want food” you would say “food” for yes and then add the “bu” as a negative in front of the word in order to say “no food”
3) Always carry your own toilet paper when you go out in public.

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