Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Surviving the Bus System

So after being in China for almost a week, I successfully navigated the bus system alone today! The Chinese bus system tends to scare the bejeebers out of me, in part because it's so tremendously large (700 different routes) and because, unlike the subway, there isn't English. I had found an ice rink that was only a few kilometers away, and set out yesterday morning to find it. After some finagling with Google transit to actually get the right start address (my computer can't read characters), I knew it was five stops away on bus 365. Seems like enough information to survive on, right? The entire time, though, I was worried that I accidentally took the bus in the wrong direction, or that Google meant to go 5 stops and then get off, or did it mean at the get off AT the fifth stop? Thankfully, the rink is located in a shopping mall, so when we pulled up at the fifth stop, I knew I was in the right place. Getting of the bus, I was proud of myself for successfully navigating. Turned out the hard part was next - little did I know, the mall I was entering was the second largest in the world. Wikipedia tells me that it was the largest when it was built, but was since replaced with another one in China. Still, the place was really huge, and they even had escalators that were flat, so you can take your cart up them! Prior to finding the ice rink (down in the basement), I passed a McDonalds, a Dairy Queen, a Starbucks, and a KFC, so I guess I know where to go if I get homesick for American food!

The ice rink itself was a bit disappointing- it's only 1/2 a rink, so that makes things a little more tricky. However, there were only a few people there, which I wasn't expecting (considering the city has 23 million), so that's good. And since it's only 15 minutes away, that'll make things easier, too.

In the afternoon, I went with Charis and her business project (Uchicago) friends to give a presentation to a high school about the U of C. Even though I spoke mostly in English, I was worried that the students wouldn't be able to understand me, but luckily, they were. I guess now I can say I've given my first international speech. :) It was a lot of fun, and many of the kids were eager to ask questions about UChicago, which was great.

Yesterday evening, we got Peking Duck for dinner. It was by far my favorite dish thus far in China, and even though it won't be the same back in the States, I'm definitely going to eat it again! :)

Today I'm leaving for Jinan, three hours away. Charis is originally from there, so we're going to stay at her house and climb a mountain! I probably won't update when I'm there, but I'll be back in Beijing on the 10th.

Other Note: It's actually a clear day in Beijing - you can see the mountains in the distance and you can actually see the sky!

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