Not too much has been going on over here in Beijing. The weather is getting a little chillier, the leaves a tiny touch more yellow, and the air a bit drier.
Last weekend, my students invited me to go \”play\” at a \”park\” in the southeast part of Beijing on Saturday. I teach on Saturday afternoons, so I figured that I\’d be down for some park activity before my class. Soon after I agreed to go to the park, I found out that it cost 145 RMB and that they wanted to leave campus at 6:50 AM! Later that night, I finally figured out where exactly we were going– a nearby amusement park called Happy Valley. After realizing that I\’d be out 100 RMB (they found me a discounted ticket) and only would be able to stay until 1:30 since I had a 3 o\’clock class to teach, I second-guessed my decision, but decided to go for it anyway.
It took 1 hour by bus to get to Happy Valley and it is considered Beijing\’s version of Disneyland. My students Lisa, Grace Z., Kevin, and Ben organized the trip. We arrived a bit early, so we decided to start the day off right with a basket of piping hot baozi (steamed dumplings) and won ton soup. There are all the typical aspects of a theme park- people dressed in costumes, rides, and overpriced food. I was actually really impressed with the architecture and cleanliness of the park. There were a few really fun roller coasters but all the coasters in China run really slowly. Although this was a little comforting for my students who were terrified at the idea of all of the rides, it was a little sickening watching the coaster cars slowly making their way over the upside down loops and corkscrews. Because I had to teach and leave early, we decided to take in one last ride– a water ride where we got completely soaked! Fortunately, Ben and Kevin bought us all ponchos to wear and Grace Z. was sweet enough to comment that I looked quite lovely in my yellow number!
The next day, I went to dinner with some of my sisters from ULS at the food court on campus. This place is really cheap– you get a plate of food for 6 RMB and a bowl of rice for 5 mao (about $1.50 in USD for the whole shebang) and it\’s all made-to-order food. It\’s the nicer alternative to the cafeteria for students. I\’m glad to say that not only was the food tasty and the experience fun, but the menus were AWESOME! This is chinglish (some know it as \”Engrish\”) at its finest! I was so tempted to get some of the items just because of their names! Old Adopted Mother Fillet, The Egg Fries the Cucumber (this puts a whole new spin on the \”Which came first? The chicken or the egg?\” theory), The Whole World Small Fry, and (my personal favorite) Living to Explode the Salt Fry the Meat were some of the specialties you can get on the \”second floor restaurant.\”
Even though things remain exciting and new here, I am getting a bit homesick. Just the other day, I was on the bus thinking things would be so much easier if I was in the US. Still, I remain faithful and well-connected… which leads me to my sad news. I just found out today via a Bay-based blog that Cody\’s Books in the East Bay closed down a little while ago! Man, that just broke my heart! I thought about walking up and down Cody\’s tall aisles when I was young and sitting on the little stools in the children\’s section with my Mom and sister while my Dad thumbed through books on business management, architecture, and the like. It was the first bookstore I went to that included a cardstock bookmark with my purchases, which I just thought was way neato-speedo. I revisited the store later after I\’d gotten pierced down the street (haha lots of memories here, hm?) and felt right at home again lost in between the classy black shelves and picking up a copy of Siddhartha for a friend. I think my heart aches just a little more because what I really long for here in China is to get lost in a bookstore the way I could in the US.
Well, friends– here is the liberal Santa Cruz hippie in me getting all sentimental… but I encourage all of you to take the example of losing a Berkeley landmark like Cody\’s as a reminder that it\’s super important to support local businesses and economy! We all know that if it weren\’t for places like Borders and Barnes and Nobles, Cody\’s may have stood a chance in increasingly-bougey Berkeley. What will they take next? City Lights in North Beach! Say it ain\’t so!
With that, I hope everyone is having a splendid segue into Fall stateside… and don\’t forget to vote (for Obama… otherwise I may not want to come back to the US… heehee)!