Finals are upon us! It is crashing around us like a hurricane. We have battened down the hatches, closed the doors, and are clinging helplessly to the flickering light of our computer screens. We know that only a nights worth of fervent studying and the caffeinated aid of coffee will get us through this ferocious storm. But fear not for there is a light at the end of this tunnel, for tomorrow once the storm has passed and we can all relax again, we shall be released from our language pledge!
In other words, I had the first portion of my finals test today, the writing part. Which means my wrist is still aching from writing pages upon pages of characters. Tomorrow is the oral portion of the test. All we have to do is just talk about one of 5 topics for a certain point of time. Then after that we have the Graduation Ceremony where we are officially released from the language pledge and we can speak English again. Seeing as I have already finished writing the essay that I will use for this I decided to give myself a nice break. I'm going to use this break to tell you about my adventures in a well known part of Beijing called Sanlituan.
Sanlituan is one of the most expensive parts of Beijing and probably the most westernized. The reason being is that there are many ambassador offices and residences in the area. It's also a very popular Ex-Pat area so there are plenty of westerners who work in Beijing for one reason or another that live there. But, that is not why Sanlituan is famous. It's famous for two reasons, 1) it has a really nice sort of out door mall area with loads of name brand stores like Calvin Klein, Hollister, American Eagle, and plenty of other really expensive stores (Oh and Starbucks which is pretty much the only store I could afford), 2) it has a lot of very popular bars, clubs and karaoke spots and is a go too spot for many of the young people who come to China. I have had the privilege of experiencing both sides of Sanlituan.
I experienced the first with a good friend of mine from school. We had just finished tackling the Silk Market where my wonderful friend earned her weight in gold bargaining with shop owners for souvenirs. Her tactic was to look and sound as pitiful as possible and keep insisting on how expensive the plane tickets were and how we don't have much money but we really want to by X because it would be such a great reminder of our time in China. It was masterful, really. I couldn't understand everything she was saying (she is fluent in Chinese) but it sounded pitiful to me and certainly worked in convincing the shop owners to give us fairly cheap prices. So after that triumph, laden with souvenirs for myself and my family, we went to explore Sanlituan.
Driving to the shopping area of Sanlituan (I think it's called the village) I instantly knew we were in an area drastically different from where I had been living for the past two months. There were intricate and twisting skyscrapers, bridges attaching different stores on multiple stories, a fountain, a luxury car show, and a Starbucks (otherwise known as Heaven on Earth). There were westerners galore and most of them were dressed to the nines. My friend told me that many of the people our age or younger are children of ambassadors or children of people who work for ambassadors. We even found a two story book store with books in English and Chinese. As a self-professed book-aholic I was particularly excited about this. So my first impression of Sanlituan was fun but outrageously expensive, even for American standards. However getting to have Starbucks for the first time in weeks was magnificent.
I experienced the second thing that Sanlituan is famous for (bars, clubs, and karaoke) several weeks later. We went with a bunch of other CET students, all of whom needed a break from the stress of daily life at CET. Gallantly off into the night we went, our first destination was a bar called Smugglers. It was small, and almost had a bit of a pub feel with lots of bulky wooden tables and benches, small rooms, plain walls except for the many names and messages scrawled by previous visitors from around the world, and one short counter right by the entrance where people were crowded around ordering drinks. Once there, we sectioned off into our smaller groups. My friend's roommate was nice and bought us all several rounds of beers. We just talked, laughed, and hung out. I let the atmosphere sweep me away from the stress of classes and the general frustrations of life in Beijing. Instead, I was just another student with her friends having a good time, not thinking about vocab or proper grammar or the upcoming test. We spent the rest of our night walking through Sanlituan, having fun at karaoke at several other clubs.
We didn't return to CET till late in the night, or I guess you could say early in the morning. We were tired, disheveled, and utterly happy. My friend's roommate even went out of his way to tell us what a fun night he had had which was very sweet. Ultimately, it was just a great night to let loose and enjoy being in China and being young.
Well that's all for now. Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more! AKA I need to get back to studying.
With the graduation ceremony tomorrow (Friday the 8th) and a whole weekend ahead before I leave for the states on Monday, I hope to have at least one more post up before I leave for that States. However, we'll see how that turns out.
Until then be safe, be happy, and remember