A typical day in Beijing
by: Karissa Woienski '13
Beijing Civ Autumn 2010
I wake up at an entirely too early hour to go for a run before classes. Asta, one of the other Civ students, meets me in the lobby, and we head to Renmin University's outdoor track. By the time we get there at 7:00, there are already 40 or so elderly people running and walking, including a group of older men walking in a group that I see every day. I think they come to socialize as much as they do to work out!
Back in my dorm, I take a quick shower and then get on Skype to talk to my family back home in Montana, where it's 6:00 pm. They update me on how many new calves have been born (7 this week!).
I leave for class, stopping to buy a package of little bread cakes for 1.2 RMB, roughly 18 cents USD. They go great with the (free!) cup of coffee I'll make at the Center.
After walking for five minutes on the streets of Beijing, I take the elevator to the 20th floor and step onto the University of Chicago's campus. The Center in Beijing is brand new and absolutely beautiful - a UChicago oasis in the midst of bustling Beijing. I make myself a (free!) cup of coffee before class starts.
I begin my first class of the day, which is a lecture on early diplomacy in China, given by Professor Tamara Chin.
After a ten-minute break, we reconvene for our next class, which is a discussion of the lecture and readings for today. We spend a lot of time discussing marriage diplomacy and the role of ritual in diplomacy, as well as an extended metaphor comparing a kow-tow to a handshake.
After class ends, I head with a bunch of other students to the dining hall on campus, which has a lot of different selections. They had plain broccoli once, and it tasted so much like it would at home that I hold my breath hoping they'll have it again. No luck, so instead I get a big bowl of noodles with eggs and tomato sauce for 4 RMB (60 cents!).
After lunch, I head to the bus stop, where I take a 355 bus. Beijing's bus system is insane – they have over 800 different routes, and one day I plan to ride them all, but not today. Instead, I head to the ice rink, housed in Jinyuan Shopping Mall, the world's second largest mall.
I greet the staff at the ice rink, all of whom are getting to know my face pretty well at this point. While UChicago doesn't have a large figure skating contingent, we're in the process of starting an RSO. I'm hoping to compete for UChicago next year, so I'm making sure I don't get out of practice while abroad. It's proven a great way to meet Beijingers; today, I have a three-minute conversation with a little girl who wants to know if I'm a teacher and where I'm from, and a longer conversation in a mix of Mandarin and English with another skater, discussing the pros and cons of China's national figure skating system (great pairs teams, not-so-great single skaters). She tells me where the national team trains, and that practices are open to the public. I feel a field trip coming on...
Back on Renmin's campus, I drop off my skating stuff and check email and Facebook, which although blocked in China, is accessible over my UChicago VPN connection. I write a post for my blog sharing my daily adventures in Beijing, then contemplate doing Chinese homework. Ultimately, I decide to put it off until after dinner.
I meet up with a classmate, Kimberly, for dinner in the dining hall. Despite the absence of steamed broccoli, I enjoy my meal of rice with green beans in soy sauce and some kind of meat in some kind of sauce (I opted not to ask) very much. Kimberly recounts her adventures of having a coat tailor-made for her, and we discuss our plans for the weekend, entertaining the possibility of going to the Beijing Zoo. (They have pandas!)
After a quick run to the campus convenience store for chocolate milk (better here than at home, I think), I'm back in the dorm. I settle in to do my readings for tomorrow.
I read the discussion questions for tomorrow online and post a paragraph on the discussion board for the readings. I finish up my Chinese homework for Thursday, since we have a test and will turn in the week's homework. Not recognizing a couple of characters, I leave a section blank and finish everything else.
Having finished everything except that section, I head over to Kimberly's room to get help, since she's in 5th year Chinese. She recognizes the characters, and I finish my homework. Watching her paint her nails, we end up talking for awhile about studying Chinese and life in general.
I head to bed, since we have a class trip to the Great Wall tomorrow morning. One of the best parts of studying abroad is the field trips, and getting to hear your professor say that she'll be holding office hours on the Great Wall.