September 23 – Mathematics

I got up at about 7:30 again, I suppose it’s become a habit by now.

I spent the morning on the internet for the most part, since I basically knew the words for the day.

I did get all but one of my math problems done in the morning.

At 11:30 I knocked on sergios door and we went and got lunch before class. We went to yet another campus restaurant, this one a small take-out place. Sergio got a crepe-like thing (you see them a lot around here, a thin layer of batter with an egg, some leek, that’s then wrapped around a crunchy piece of bread. I got a very good stir-fry, with rice, onions, beef, peppers, cabbage, carrots, etc. It was a bit more expensive than the common dining halls, but it also tasted somewhat better.

I spent some time trying to figure out how to run maze on my computer, eventually discovering that it wasn’t possible on macs. Maze appears to be the default way to share music on campus, it’s a p2p application developed by the university, and the cs department extracts usage information from the network and then publishes papers about the observed behavior.

Class was fine again, I’m still essentially on top of the material, so all’s good on that front.

After class we had a brief meeting with Prof. Wang (the director) about the plan for next week. She said that we would be touring a village and a mountain. Stuff is still pretty up in the air by the sound of it, they want us to stay in a monastery, but you can’t really book that, it’s just a matter of if they have space when you show up. we fly out to anhui on friday morning, and it should be quite a bit of fun.

Then was taiji class, he had us hold the poses a bit longer as a ‘final’, and then brought his teacher to show us what taiji looks like after 30 years, which was quite impressive.

finally, I came back to by dorm, drank some tea, and did the Chinese homework.

I basically am ready for tomorrow morning in that regard. I spent a couple hours working on the last math problem, but haven’t completed it satisfactorily yet. I’ll take another crack at it tomorrow after Chinese class, if I still can’t get it I’ll ask my tutor about it tomorrow when we meet for the first time.

Not a ton of news from today, other than that yesterday I went out to get snacks and picked up a bag of white rabbit candy, and today there was a news article that they also tested positive for the poison milk thing. I’ve only had a few, so now I’ve got a whole bag of candy that I can’t eat. sad.

Things are beginning to settle into a routine grind, and so there’s less out of the ordinary to talk about. School is as expected, and so doesn’t in my opinion warrant detailed explanations.

September 22 – Back in the swing

I woke up at about 7am, since I got to bed yesterday so early. I was feeling less tired, but my cold hadn’t gone away fully. I showered, took another look over the vocabulary, and went to class.

Class went fine, the first hour was spent taking two tests, first a written test on the first four lessons, and then a dictation on the fifth lesson. I got a 93 on the written test, missing points for not remembering a few characters. My dictation score was 91. I hadn’t realized exactly what the deal was with the dictation, and was taken off-guard by some additional vocabulary that I hadn’t realized I needed to study. The dictation is actually two sentences from the dialog associating each chapter, so in the future i’ll need to read through that the night before and find out if there are additional words used I haven’t learned yet.

The second hour was spent reviewing the various grammar patterns and words introduced by the fifth lesson. It’s fairly intense but doable. I think it will be more so once I’m over this cold.

Afterward, I went with sergio and steven to the computer center to buy internet access for our computers. I proffered $315 kuai, and after a lengthy discussion the two ladies at the counter asked me for $405 kuai. I told them I didn’t want to sign up for december, and after an equally length calculation, complete with long hand multiplication on the back of a sheet of paper, they came to the agreement that it would in fact be $315, which I gave to them.

I returned to my dorm, and had no problems accessing the internet. I wrote out the new vocab for tomorrow, and chatted with my parents for a while.

In the afternoon after studying for a while, I decided not to stay in my room all day, and walked down to the haibei area. It’s one of the places we went during orientation, and has the largest carryfour (a supermarket) in asia. I spent about an hour walking up and down the aisles and looking at the various things they had for sale. I eventually bought some kleenex for my cold, and some tea.

The way out of the store was somewhat confusing. I followed the exit signs, which resulted in a very long hallway that was bordered on each side by a variety of stores. It didn’t really seem like it’s own shopping mall, and the crowd was flowing out of the carryfour to the exit, which made it very strange that there were a good 50-80 stores there. I eventually exited and hurredly made my way back to campus because the clouds were threatening rain and I had brought my unprotected camera.

I still had an hour before taiji class, so I drank some tea and did some more studying.

Taiji was fine again, we have now learned three of the four poses that are represented in the large garden, there are two more classes before we finish the session. I biked over there today, expecting that it would be finished once the rain started and I wanted to get back as quickly as possible at that point. Instead it didn’t rain, but I got wet since the seat of my bike hadn’t dried from the previous day.

After class I went to dinner with sarah at yet another dining hall. I got a couple of steamed buns with strangely minty vegetables inside, and a bowl of rice and some sort of meat/tofu. The texture of the meat was somewhat off-putting but the sauce was good, so I suppose the meal was a success. We talked about pitzer and how they didn’t seem to be quite as organized about things as either of our schools.

After dinner, I came back did a couple math problems, wrote up my core homework for thursday, and finished getting the vocabulary for tomorrow into my head. I drank more tea and am increasingly happy with my choice which was the cheapest of the three gunpowder teas they had available (tea leave rolled into little balls that unfurl once water is added).

I’m going to bed early again since I’m tired, and even though I don’t have class tomorrow until 2pm.

we just got news that there will be a meeting at 4:15 tomorrow to discuss the deal with traveling to anhui this weekend, it should be interesting.

September 21 – Recovery

I woke up at 7:30 again for taiji. I definitely have a cold, which is too bad, but hopefully I’ll get over it soon. Taiji class was fine, he got through showing us the movement he wants us to make, but said it not really be reasonable to expect all to be good at it in 10 days. I do feel more flexible though, I can touch my toes without effort if that’s any sign. I rode my bike over to the class area, and then rode back to the dorm afterwards. I didn’t really get out much today, and mostly sat at my computer and felt sick. The weather outside was raining all day, which didn’t exactly help matters.

I did get out for lunch, (chao mein / fried noodles) which I had no complaints about, and stopped on my way back to pick up some white rabbit candies, and a pair of slippers, which are actually quite comfortable. Even though I wasn’t hungry I went out in the evening and got a bowl of chicken soup that tasted good.

During the day I worked on various studious things for the most part. Spent a good time going through and working on memorizing the characters so far. The new teaching style where we’re supposed to learn the characters before class Isn’t quite as easy for me to get a hang of, so those ones aren’t quite as clear in my mind yet. The other ones are all pretty much there for the test tomorrow.

I also did a few of my math problems for this wednesday, (along with the reading) wrote up my disp proposal for my Intellectual Property assignment and sent that it, and wrote most of my first assignment for my core class. (A letter reflecting on the scavenger hunt during orientation.) I also signed up for the universities bulletin board system and spent quite a while reading through posts there. It’s quite interesting, and I’m able to decipher at least some of it. There’s a skiing club, and lots of freshmen asking about where to buy things. (The skiing club goes elsewhere to ski for the most part, there’s an indoor ski area in beijing though.)

I drank a lot of tea, Noticed that my what.cd account is now power user, which means I’ll start getting invitation for that site next month.

All in all a pretty quiet day, I didn’t really have much energy, but hopefully I’ll do better tomorrow. I’ll post this tomorrow, since internet isn’t working right now. I’ll be able to buy legitimate internet tomorrow though.

September 20 – Out and about

I got up at 7:30 since we have taiji practice this weekend. Taiji was fine, we did half on the first movement. (we’ve been doing strength building and stances, now we’re working on a movement.) Many of my classmates looked tired, probably having been out too late last night.

After class I went to breakfast with sarah and alice. We went to the place advertising noodles. I got an egg and three small baozi (steamed buns / dumplings with some sort of pork filling.) and a cup of soy milk. Breakfast was quite decent.

I went back to my dorm, took a look at my map and decided to start biking east and see If I’d hit a lake. First though I stopped by the bike mechanic, and paid him two kuai to get the back break out of the way of the front wheel. He hit various pieces of the bike with a hammer until things weren’t getting in other things way. The bike ride was relaxing, and I got out to see a different part of beijing than before. I never really saw a main gate to either of the parks I was looking for, but definitely rode along the edges of a couple of them for quite a while. The bike threatened to fall apart on the way back, but all that happened was one of the metal poles connecting the back axle to the mud guard came off, and hooked into the wheel. I was able to bend it out of the way without any serious issues.

I came back to the dorm at about noon, looked over words a bit more, and then walked down to zhongguancun at about two with sergio and matt. zhongguancun is the major technology area just south of the college, and also a major general purpose shopping area.

We went through the main shopping mall, past a band that was setting up to play and already had a crowded audience in one lobby, and eventually found a pizza place. Sergio had been talking about pizza on the way down, so we decided to go there for lunch. The pizza was in general pretty westernized, as were the prices. I think really most of the mall was probably that way, as it all looked quite upscale. That’s not to say the food wasn’t good, it was, it’s just that it wasn’t anything you wouldn’t expect.

Afterward we walked over to the technology area. I directed us into a very skinny building that had cartoon characters all over the outside. There was an escalator on the outside that took us to the third floor, which was practically deserted, with psp shop near the entrance, and the rest of the floor blocked off. We walked up a floor, and found a typical although small marketplace. It also seemed pretty slow, with many empty store fronts, and not that many people. On the fifth floor were comic book shops, cosplay outfits, and various anime accessories. The sixth floor which was where all the people on the stairwell were heading turned out to be a cosplay restaurant, with the waitresses in various costumes. Since we’d already had lunch we made our exit.

We walked across the street to one of the larger electronic megastores. There wasn’t a specific purpose beyond reveling in the massive quantities of electronics available. I ended up talking for a while to a salesman at a shop hocking edifier speakers. He offered me their R1900 for between 560 and 750 kuai. (the first being under the price offered online, the second over; He had two different models that were both R1900, and I couldn’t quite tell the difference.) I ended up not getting anything, but sergio got a cheaper speaker system from the same shop. (A 2.1 for $160 that sounds decent)

On the way out I noticed a Hi-vi shop, and looking it up online, it turns out that hi-vi is a reasonably respected brand for upscale sound equipment. I’m thinking of going back there and seeing how much they want for monitors. (Then I looked at shipping and realized it would probably cost way more than the speakers to ship anything back to the states. – I guess I can bring one more bag back then I came here with)

We got back at 6-ish, actually I came back about 10 minutes before they did because I was walking faster than them, and got across one of the major intersections while they got stuck at it for a while, and decided to just head back.

I felt like I was getting a cold, so I took a shower and drank some tea, and fiddled around on the internet. I found some more interesting information on the campus network, it turns out that there are lots of easy sources of access to movies and music here, probably much more open than in the US. There are several big ftp servers that provide access to the campus, and the cs department actually has developed it’s own P2P network called maze that it encourages students to use. (sadly windows only.) They’ve actually published studies about network dynamics and user statistics because they are able to keep tabs on the network.

nobody else seemed to be doing much this evening either, although there’s talk of seeing a movie tomorrow. There’s taiji again tomorrow morning, and I’ve got some homework to get through this weekend that I didn’t really get done today. It was good to get out though.

September 19 – End of Week One

I woke up late because class on Fridays doesn’t start until 10am. I grabbed another thing of yogurt that I got yesterday, and went over to class. We got a couple more packets of readings for the core class, and spent today reviewing the first four lessons. the homework for the weekend is study and know everything from the first 5 lessons; we’ll have a quiz on the first four, and then a dictation on the fifth.

After class I went back to the dorm, and then to lunch. We went to the sichuan dining hall, and I got green beans with pork. The bean here are quickly becoming one of my favorite foods. Most of the other people on the trip seem to prefer vegetarian options for whatever reason. (Probably because they’re mostly from pitzer) There’s a scrambled egg with mushroom dish that people get a lot, along with various tofu dishes that seem to be enjoyed.

After Lunch I walked over to the taiji garden and took some pictures of the statues that were on display there. I said hello to shanbin, the guy I’d talked with yesterday, and also to a girl who’s an english major in the taiji club. They told me how to sign up for the club, and I said I’d be back later in the afternoon with friends who wanted to sign up even more than me.

I came back to the dorm, uploaded photos from the last few days, and studied a bit of chinese.

At Three I met with my language tutor, lucia, in front of the supermarket. I asked if we could first go over to the computer center and get my internet connected, and she was happy to help me with that. We first walked to the first floor office, which said that it was there to get student cards, and since I was a foreign student I didn’t get a full on card. They directed us to an office on the second floor. The lady there said that she didn’t know what to do with us. Lucia called Prof. Zhang, and asked what was up, and got told that information on what to do had been sent yesterday. After a heated discussion with the lady there, we were told to go up to the third floor. On the third floor another lady didn’t know what to do, and pointed us to an office on the other side of the floor. The person who was supposed to be in that office wasn’t there.

So we waited there for a couple minutes, and then the lady from the second floor showed up, and said the guy we were waiting for was on the second floor, so we went down to where he was, and he said that he needed to run off somewhere but would be back in ten minutes. In the meantime, Prof. Zhang showed up, and talked with the lady behind the office on the second floor.

They ended up not having a problem, but said that If we came back on monday it would cost $45 less for this month. I asked if there was a way to just sign up for the basic $30 plan for this month, and they said that there was a deal with the foreign student office where foreign students needed to pay for full international internet if they wanted anything. I decided to come back on monday. (One of the girls bought some sort of $10/day plan for this weekend, and I set up her computer as a wireless provider, so most of us are using that for now.)

I went back to my dorm with lucia, and studied chinese for an hour and a half. I read through all the characters so far, and practiced tones, and then we had a chinese conversation focusing mostly on the poisoned milk situation. (Very serious, it’s spread from powder to all milk, and they’re recommending that if you want milk you should only get it from nestle or 100kuai)

Then it was time for taiji class, We went to the field next to where we normally practice since the club is doing it’s display this weekend. We spent time looking at the statues, and then the teacher had us do what we’d learned so far in front of his teacher, who seemed to sign off on it. We ended class a bit early, and went into the taiji practice building, where there was a second display, where slightly larger versions of each of the types of statues were painted and displayed. There were also lots of explanations of what was going on with english translations.

After taiji, I came back to my dorm and did a first run through all the characters in the 5th chapter, that I need to learn for monday. I spent a while looking at the chinese internet, and ended up watching CCTV4 on my computer. (The College has a technical initiative to get IPV6 in use in the core chinese universities. What they’re providing to help the uptake is that access to IPV6 sites is free even when you aren’t signed up for an IPV4 plan, and they provide free streaming television over IPV6. They had all 10 cctv channels available, and also a for whatever reason were hosting a large site of movies and television programs that can be streamed. It’s very different from the US, where the college wants to stay as far away from that stuff as possible because of possible litigation. Here, I’ve seen large banners advertising the tv.pku.edu.cn subdomain where you can watch tv from you computer.

That was most of the day, I Went through email for a bit, and talked chatted with some of the other other participants. A bunch of them went out to drink, but since there was taiji class at 8 on saturday I didn’t really think that was a great idea. I looked through a map and decided to try and walk around the kunming lake and summer palace tomorrow.

September 18 – Perseverance

I got up this morning at about 7:30. It was nice that we’re now right next door to classes, because it means that you don’t end up at class tired, and you get an extra 30 minutes of sleep.

We’re switching professors for the rest of term, Prof. Zhang is too busy with the other duties of being assistant director to also have 10 hours of teaching a week, so my new teacher is Prof. Wang. (Wang Li). She seems to be stricter that Prof. Zhang, we’re going to have daily dictations, and she expects to to have learned the characters in the next days lesson before coming to class each day.

The class was fine today, we went over characters in the fourth lesson, and she quizzed us and had us make sentences around all of the grammar points.

After class I went back to my room, and wrote out all of the characters, and began to study them a little bit. I also took a short nap.

At 2pm we had our first core class. it was taught by Prof. Gong. He is a journalism Professor, who has been to America a couple times, and taught at Berkley for a couple years. He went through a brief history of china in the two hours, covering a little bit of Confucius, going through the opium and Japanese wars, and then looking at the reconstruction, formation of bejing daxue, and got up to mao’s rise to power. It was an interesting history lesson.

After that class one of the tutors came in to tell us what the deal was with the internet. It’s sort of an interesting situation. The basic deal is that for 30 kuai / month you can get internet access to the chinese web. For another 30 / month you get 80 hours / month to the english web, or for 90 / month you get full access to the english web. There’s a pro-rating discount if you wait until after the 20th of the month to sign up, which is why they’ve been telling us to wait until the 21st to deal with stuff. On the same note the ethernet port in my room got fixed after I complained yesterday.

My current plan is to stop by tomorrow, and sign up for chinese internet for the rest of the month. (that also includes gmail). Then I’ll get full internet starting in october.

After the internet discussion we walked over to taiji class. We went through the same exercises as before, and then got into the specifics of the first pose. Near the end of the session, there was a group of older chinese ladies in the next park over who were doing some form of taiji. One of the girls who didn’t speak chinese wanted to know what it was, so I asked another member of the taiji club who was practicing nearby. He didn’t know, but then as we were leaving asked me how long I’d been studying chinese. We ended up talking for quite a while, he expressed that it was really hard to explain this stuff in english, because while our instructor had just been saying to keep things level, or to stay straight, the real point was to keep various acupoints aligned. There was an older lady (an aiyi) who had also been following along with us during our lesson, and he worked with both of us in chinese for about half an hour going over the stuff we’d learned before.

He also spent quite a while working to express to me how the exercises related to yin and yang, and how you had to make sure that you’re movements didn’t go too far in one direction. There was a lot of vocabulary around the subject that I haven’t heard before, but it was still really interesting stuff.

We ended by doing a second pose, that I couldn’t really hold for more than a second. You squat down completely with all your weight on the heals, and your upper body rigid, which means that it’s quite difficult to keep from falling over backwards. Then, in that braced position you transfer all of your weight to one leg, and push the other out until the knee is straight.

I got back to my dorm at 7, did another crack at the homework (got through the writing and just need to finish learning characters.) Then I walked over to the supermarket and got some yogurt and crackers to snack on.

Internet, well, for now internet remains intermittent. I’m using an open wireless network that means I’m partially connected. The deal is that the port the wireless router is plugged into has been enabled, but since my computer isn’t logged in anywhere, I can’t theoretically access the internet. The trick is that you can access the .pku.edu.cn domain. One of the things I found there was that there is a second route out to the internet, one that you don’t have to pay for. The problem is that the second route is an IPV6 route. What this means is that I can’t access google.com, but I can access ipv6.google.com. It does mean I can’t access gmail, since there is no IPv6 address for it. For sites that don’t need authentication, you can also proxy your IPV6 communications through a service offered by sixxs.org, which is how I’m typing this. (my url is willscott.name.ipv6.sixxs.org). It’s a pain, but I really only need to get access to my email beyond what I’ve got now.

I don’t have class tomorrow until 10am, which will be nice to sleep in. I still have a bunch of characters from this lesson to learn, like ‘fence’, and ‘roof tile’, and ‘to renovate’, but I ought to be able to get it done. If all goes well, I’ll be able to post some photos tomorrow, but we’ll see.

September 17 – Moving

Got up at 7 again this morning. Took my backpack down to the hotel lobby, as the program had arranged to move our large bags for us. I took my two smaller bags with me and walked over to the classroom. (I was a bit early, and got there at about 7:45 for an 8:00 am class). The weirdness I had noticed earlier with white barricades along the roads was even more evident as a I walked through. There was no security I had to pass through to get on campus, but that might had just been luck. (normally you have to show your id card to open the closed campus of 50000 people.) Prof Zhang came in right at 8, and said that sergio would probably be late because everything was blocked off for the marathon that was going through campus. I guess shortly after I walked over, the holes in the gate got closed and everyone got told to find another way in, because the main road through campus was only for the marathon runners.

Sergio showed up about 15 minutes late, we had our dictation, and then went through another 20 or 30 new words for the rest of class. Mostly having to do with banking and phone calls.

After class, we gave Prof. Zhang our passports and a room deposit. I hung around the office for a little bit, not entirely sure what to do, but talking with steven, sarah, and alice discovered that they were heading out to buy bikes. I joined them and we walked to a market to the north west of campus with steven’s tutor. In a back alley we found a bike show that the tutor knew of, and found four bikes in working condition. They cost 100/bike, which isn’t that bad, and my bike works and feels like it’s worth about $15 usd. The brakes aren’t like anything I’ve seen in the US, but the tutor was happy to see them, saying they were much stronger than the typical brakes. (this is the mechanism not the actual brakes which are still pads against the wheel rim.) The difference is that rather than a wire that gets pulled, there are actually solid metal rods that move to apply pressure.

I got the bike, the others spent a long time finding bikes, and trying to get the bikes adjusted properly, I sort of figured that my bike felt comfortable enough and for the time I’ll be using it I don’t really need to worry about the exact seat height. I rode back, the bike didn’t break at all, so that was good.

I biked over to the lake and did the first bit of my chinese homework for the day, came back at about 2:10 and there was a sign on the office saying that we could move in at 2:30. So I biked around campus for 20 minutes. I actually like the bike reasonably well. The chain came off once, and was annoying to put back on, since there’s a chain guard that makes it hard to reach. The bike itself is very well shocked, and managed to go over the quite rough streets without too much efforts. It’s also very heavy, which means that it can coast for quite a while on the downhills.

I got back at 2:30, got my key, and moved to my room. The room is a suite, with a large room, a small room, and a bathroom. I guess it’s supposed to be shared by three people. I took the small room, which had a desk and a dresser in it. The big room had two beds and a TV, but really didn’t have any other furniture in it. I unpacked in about an hour, and then discovered that there wasn’t internet.

There were several wireless networks, but only one was open, and it didn’t do anything when I connected. Additionally when I plugged into the ethernet port in my room I got a ‘network is unplugged error’, meaning that something was very wrong with that connection. (other people didn’t get that error, and while they also weren’t getting internet because you apparently have to pay for it, at least it felt like if they paid for it they could get it enabled.)

I took a crack at cracking one of the WEP networks, and did so successfully in about 15 minutes. The problem was that once connected There were no other computers on the network, and it itself wasn’t connected to the internet and hence was a false leed. I started taking packets for the other network nearby but it was WPA encryption, and I didn’t have much hope of getting a key for it. (WEP is broken, WPA is still pretty secure)

in the meantime I walked with steven and sarah and matt over to a cafeteria I’d never been to to get dinner. I got pork and greenbeans, which were very tasty, and some sort of cake like thing for dessert that was also really good. After dinner I came back, wrote my essay for tomorrow, and then fiddled around trying to get the internet to work. Eventually I found that the open network was connected to the main PKU internet, and so I spoofed my mac address to one of the ones I’d seen earlier (actually, one of the ones connected to the closed network I’d entered), and was suddenly able to connect. There’s just one but, and it was pretty big. That but is that I can only connect to .cn domains, and to google. My blog doesn’t work, my music doesn’t work, mudd’s website doesn’t work, it seems that anything that isn’t in china doesn’t work.

After spending lots of time doing google searches and trying to find information in the 1 line snippit of the results that I was allowed to read, I found google’s mobile proxy, and have been using that for this post. It’s official purpose is to reformat websites for mobile devices, but it also allows you to access US based pages despite the weird PKU filter.

I’m going to spend some more time studying characters, as the ones from today aren’t fully in my head yet.

Oh, I forgot to put this in: I met with my math tutor today. One of the tutors (the one who’s an EE major) knew the guy that TA’d for the PKU real analysis class last semester. We met briefly in Prof. Wang’s office, and he seems quite nice. We’ll meet every wednesday in my dorm room at 3:40 to discuss my problem set for the week, and answer questions I have. I can also send him emails if I have questions on things. I’ve finished the first week’s problem set without problem, and am starting on reading lecture notes towards the second one.

I’ll post a picture of my Bike soon, assuming I can bend the internet to my will for a bit longer.

September 16 – Classes Continue

Woke Up at 7am again for chinese class. my notebook situation worked out quite well, and class was good. I had no problems keeping up with the new words today, and seem to be handling the material reasonably. There’s a dictation quiz tomorrow, but I don’t expect it to be that bad yet.

After class I was quite tired, and walked back to the room to take a nap in the early afternoon. I managed to transcribe all of the characters from class onto a new sheet, which is my plan for the semester before napping though.

I got up for a slightly late lunch, and went over to the baozi place for a couple pork baozi. I also reloaded my meal card with 100 kuai, which should keep it going for a while. I ate lunch with sarah and alice, and we spent most of the time discussing what we were planning on doing for our research projects. People seem pretty impressed that I’m doing a math disp, but the other things sound pretty interesting as well.

After lunch we walked over to the classroom, there was a DISP meeting at 2, where we would all present and talk about first our experiences on the scavenger hunt, and then what we were hoping to do for our disps.

I helped Prof. zhang set up a laptop and projector in the conference room for a while before everyone came in. Prof. wang mentioned that they were looking for a graduate student to work with me on my math disp, but the concept didn’t translate exactly and they might end up going with a math professor.

The scavenger hunts were pretty much as expected. They also did a good job of highlighting some of the culture aspects, although probably not for everyone. One group got suckered into buying art from an “art student” and spent $150 per painting. They felt they had gotten a good deal since they had bargained down from $200. Some of the tutors looked amazed, which they took to be a good sign, when in fact the surprise came from the things only being worth $30 or so. My group was funny, they felt that the highlight had been the hutong and the conversation we had with a few guys. I thought the hutong we went to was actually pretty boring. It certainly wasn’t well known, as none of the tutors had ever heard of it. The conversation wasn’t that exciting, and since neither of them spoke any Chinese, I don’t know how it could have left that much of an impression on them, but so be it. They had also put together a power point. I hadn’t helped them saying it was completely uncalled for, and I remain convinced that you could have talked much more eloquently without needing to show random pictures. However all the groups used PowerPoint, even the ones that had to show theirs on small laptops screens because they didn’t bring adapters for the projector.

the disps were interesting. A lot of people want to learn instruments, which is apparently worth credit. Others want to learn cooking, or make documentaries. My math class is probably way more work than any of the other things that are being proposed, but will be a bit more personally fulfilling to me. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but the basic outline is this: I’m going to do the homeworks, read lecture notes and the book to fully take an equivalent to the mudd course. I’ll meet once a week with someone, (either grad. student or professor) once the program gets organized. In that session I’ll go over homeworks and questions I’ve had in the material, and also ask about how this sort of material is taught in china, and learn some of the vocabulary associated with it. When I get back to mudd in the spring, I’ll take the final associated with the class, and all things going as planned waive the class.

My second project will be something more standard. I want to look at intellectual property rights, probably surrounding movies. Take a look at distribution and the various methods, and how it varies between us and china. I’ve already got connections at KG, and it might be interesting to do some sorts of comparison between all of these various distribution models.

After the disp presentations it was basically time to do taiji again. I stopped by a store and got a bottle of water on the way over. Taiji was better this time, although it’s still quite tiring. We cut class short a by 20 minutes or so because it was threatening to rain again.

I walked with steven and jeremy over to the cafeteria area afterward to get some dinner. It was starting to dribble and was very windy when we got there, so we purchased umbrellas and got jiaozi (pot stickers) to go. The cafeteria was pretty full, and a nice contrast to the blustery weather. There was a long line to get soups (wonton soup it looked like), but not that long of a line for potstickers. They seemed to only have one type, but that was fine with me, I got the same number as the first time I was there, two liang, however many that is, and asked for it to go. The server was embarrassed to give it to me to go, but eventually did. The problem was the cardboard boxes didn’t have a way to fasten, and wouldn’t stay closed. It wasn’t that big of a problem though in comparison to the fact that if you put wet dumplings into a thin cardboard box and then take it out into the rain it starts to loose shape pretty quickly.

The walk back was more windy than rainy, although it started to rain pretty good in the last couple blocks. I managed to get the dumplings back to my dorm safely though, and they tasted great; especially for 3 kuai.

I got back to the dorm at 6:30 or so, had dinner, and studied a bit more language stuff. I spent about an hour and finished my first week of math homework, and caught up on correspondences.

My last task this evening is to pack everything up, since we’re moving into our permanent dorms tomorrow.

September 15 – Classes Begin

Got up at 7 today, because classes started at 8. Walked over fairly leisurely, and got there a bit before class started. Prof. Wang was at the entrance of the building and directed me to my room up on the third floor. It’s quite a small room, but fits two students and a teacher without problems.

All told there were 5 of us, me and Sergio, the teacher, and our two language tutors who are going to be listening in for the first few classes to see what level we’re at.

Today was day one, and so we covered an aeronautical vocabulary. A lot of words, we basically spent the full two hours going through new words and doing short examples of how to use them. It was fun, but pretty intense.

Afterward, I went with the second year students to the bookstore outside of campus to see if they had notebooks. They did, but they were quite expensive so we headed back to campus and get them there. A couple kids got whiteboards from the bookstore though since we hadn’t seen them elsewhere. next to the bookstore was a bakery, and it had set up several milk crates full of moon cakes that were on sale (3 for $10). Sarah and Alice both got three moon cakes, Alice tried one of the ones she got, and it turned out to be fish flavored, which wasn’t what she had been expecting. I went into the bakery since I was hungry and got a pizza hot-dog. It was a hot dog, with a custom made bun, and topped with cheese and bell peppers, overall quite good. Steven got a bun covered in pork shavings which also looked okay.

The next stop was the bookstore on campus where I got three notebooks, as Prof. Zhang had asked us to. I got a report pad for writing down new characters, a spiral book for homework’s, and a normal notebook for writing down dictations.

After that Jeremy and Steven wanted to find the gym, so we walked over to the building we were told it was under. We weren’t able to get into the door that looked most promising, and after a bit of wandering around we got hungry and walked over to the nearby cafeteria. Alice wasn’t very happy about her food, because it seemed too mushy. I had, well, something. There were hot peppers, onions, and some sort of meet. The meet was chewy and sort of cylindrical and hollow, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence, since most parts of animals I know of don’t come in that shape. None the less it tasted pretty good.

After lunch I went back to my dorm. I was pretty tired and didn’t get a lot of studying done, but did transcribe all of the characters from today into a new notebook, and wrote a paragraph that was our homework.

At 3:45 I decided to take a walk before the taiji class that evening, and so headed over to the college again. There were white barriers on the sides of most of the roads, and it looked like they would shortly be blocked off from the campus proper to serve as channels for people heading towards the olympic stadium. I walked for a bit, got a bottle of tea at one of the stores on campus, and ended up at the meeting place a few minutes early.

The taiji instructor is a student at the college, and a member of the taiji club. The teachers were quite impressed by his faithfulness to rules, as he told us that the main movements weren’t worth teaching us because they required at least 10 years of preparation to do correctly.

Instead We spent an hour and a half doing essentially squats, the whole basis for taiji appears to be having the ability to move freely with your weight entirely on your heels. It was interesting work, but also quite tiring. The mosquitoes didn’t help either.

For dinner we went to the sichuanese cafeteria we’d been to earlier. I got a sweet-and-sour chicken and cucumber dish that wasn’t bad and a plate of fried noodles. Then I helped direct sergio to the place, since he had stopped to talk to people and then got lost.

After dinner we headed back to the dorms. I reviewed the new characters a couple more times, and sent in my mathematics research proposal.

I still need to deal with some basic housekeeping this evening, but I’m exhausted from the taiji, and expect to sleep well tonight.

September 14 – Mid Autumn Festival

Today was the last day of the orientation schedule, the morning was a scavenger hunt to get us feeling more comfortable with the city, and the afternoon was a picnic with our tutors in celebration of the mid autumn festival. (mm, moon cakes)

Last night I walked over to the room where most of the pitzer kids have been hanging out, and confirmed that I’d meet with the other two guys on my team at 8:30. I got down the the cafe on time, and they straggled in a bit later. I was the only one in our group that knew chinese, so they decided to rely on me for directions and communication. Eventually we got started, after they remembered they wanted to bring backpacks and cameras, and headed towards wudaoko. It was the same lightrail train that we’d gotten off at on the way back from the olympics. We caught a bus and took it two stops over rather than walking the whole way. I didn’t bother trying to read the schedule and just asked the driver if the bus went to wudaoko when it came to the stop, the second one did.

The bus wasn’t particularly crowded, which was nice, and the light rail also wasn’t a problem. I went to the counter rather than the automatic ticket vendor, and tried to buy a pass, but after getting what I wanted and understanding why I was trying to give her a $100 for a $2 ticket the lady said I’d have to go to the other side of the street for that, so I gave up and just got a single trip ticket.

The trip through the subway system was uneventful, though it’s a shame that there won’t be a stop right by us. I’m hopeful that once we relocate midway through this week and are on the other side of campus there will be a closer station.

We got off at the tiananmen station, and headed over to the main square. The only real upgrade from last time I’ve been there is that there are now security checkpoints at every entrance through the square, where you have to pass all of your bags through a metal detector.

The square was about the same as last time; tons of tourists, very hot. The edges were lined with intricate flower displays celebrating the olympics, and there was a 50 foot rotating paralympics sign placed in the middle next to one of the statues of toiling workers. We asked one of the guards when the flag raising ceremony would be tomorrow, and he replied 5:55 AM. (Flag raising ceremony incidentally is sheng qi yi shi). We headed south, to explore the hutongs next passing by mao’s mausoleum.

The Mausoleum was still active as ever, I’ve heard that it will have to close at some point because the body is actively deteriorating due to a botched job with the formaldehyde. The line was way longer than it was 4 years ago though, probably 5 wide and a good 4 hundred meters long.

We headed out of the square, and walked east for a few blocks until we saw a street that headed south into a hutong. The hutong we ended up in was somewhat disappointing to me, but cool in it’s own right. The road went a block, and then got much smaller, there were two pillers in the middle about one car length apart that were painted with stripes of black and yellow, and two temporary road blocks on either side of them. Beyond were high walls recently painted an industrial gray, but the street itself had a bunch of litter. It really looked like one of those ‘end of civilization’ lines commonly seen in post apocalyptic movies. We continued down a few blocks, and then took one of the alleys to get into the actual hutong part, and off of the road that had been cut through it. There was a small store, with three guys in front of it. I greeted them, and the younger guy who looked like the current proprietor didn’t have a particularly strong accent and I was able to understand him pretty well.

He asked where we were from and I told him we were americans studying at beida. We had a discussion on whether the united states or china was better, and decided that they both had their own pros and cons. He also pointed out that everyone has to say that their country was better, but overall they were both good. We parted with him inviting us to look around the hutong, he seemed like a very nice guy.

The hutong itself seemed to be on the way out. Many of the houses were now empty, and it wasn’t exactly bustling. After a bit of walking we found a small group of vendors that were putting together a market. There was a guy with some produce, and another with a bowl of live fish. Farther on were various pancakes (with leeks or corn) or steamed buns. At the other end was another small store. We bought some bottles of water, since the other two were thirsty, and I used the phone to call our teacher since she asked us to check in from the hutong.

I picked up a couple steamed buns on the way out of the hutong since I was getting hungry, and we walked out to the next major street.

We hailed a taxi cab, although to be fair he had already spotted us and gotten into the bike lane and I just had to acknowledge that we did indeed want a ride. He was from beijing, and drove way slower than the normal pace of traffic. It was a good thing that you paid based on distance rather than time, because he certainly wasn’t breaking any records. There wasn’t any particularly interesting conversation in the cab. Rebecca attempted to talk to him, but since she hasn’t had any chinese and was reading off of flash cards I’d have to interpret, and he’d answer.

We got off at the university east gate, and walked back to the hotel. Matt had forgotten his key, and so waited for his room mate to get back in my room, and read from one of our reading packets we’ve gotten in the last couple days.

I did a bit of math, and kept up with some emails.

At about 3 I took off for the classroom on the other side of the university to meet with the tutors. I handed in my health questionnaire, and then talked with the tutors for a few minutes until the rest of the kids arrived. We walked north to the summer palace ruins. The tutors are all really nice, and seem to be really smart. After getting into the park we found a deserted grass area and sat around to eat the moon cakes and snacks that had been brought. they had us do a little exercise where we acted out situations that showed cultural differences and then reflected on them, which was fairly silly. Afterward I we wandered around the park a little bit and then headed out.

We stopped to watch an older guy using a large brush with a sponge at the end to draw a large calligraphic character with water. As we continued out one of the tutors explained to me that it was a performance art. There isn’t any permanent result so the art has to be seen in the drawing as much as the resultant character. there are apparently clubs of guys that get together every day and work on their performances.

We got back to the hotel at about 6 pm, which felt really early, but there had been a lot of walking in the morning. I wrote up my formal proposal for doing a math class next semester. Then at about 8:30 I decided to take a walk, rather than spend the night in. My original destination was to a big bookstore on the other side of campus. I headed first towards the classrooms, and the supermarket next to them. That route passes a big field where taiji is practiced, and this evening it was full of small groups of people eating moon cakes and celebrating the holiday. As I was arriving at the supermarket the wind picked up a bunch and people started moving more purposefully. The whole time there was also lightning in the distance. It was far away, and the evening was nice.

I got a can of milk tea, which wasn’t bad at all, but exiting from the supermarket is started spitting, so I decided to head back rather than continue towards the bookstore. This was a good Idea, because by the time I got out of the campus the lighting was right overhead and it was pouring. I jogged the last few blocks, and ended up soaking by the time I was back at the hotel. I wrung out my clothes, and hopefully my shoes will dry out before tomorrow morning, and decided to call it a night.

I have my first chinese class tomorrow at 8 am, and I want to to an edit and then turn in my proposal for at least the math class by tomorrow as well.

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