We had another lecture this morning by another PKU professor. This one was supposed to be about society and culture, but it was really more of the history and politics. The most interesting thing from this lecture (besides the truly impressive number of s’s he managed to put at the end of nearly every word) was that he, like the speaker from the day before, talked about backwardness and poverty as an “invitation for aggression”. The man yesterday shared the story of Confucius and his followers walking along the Canglang river and hearing a man singing a song.
Confucius said, “Hear what he sings, my children. When clear, he will wash his cap-strings, and when muddy, he will wash his feet with it. This different application is brought by the water on itself.
It was interesting to me to learn that this is at least a somewhat common belief among Chinese.
During the lunch break today, I went back to Bank of China to see about reopening my old bank account. I confidently handed over my account book, card, and passport and said that I had just forgotten the password. (Why mention the five years thing if they don’t bring it up?) She asked if this was the passport I used to open it and I said yes . . . then realized it wasn’t. I renewed my passport a few months ago. Apparently the account has been frozen and I need the old passport (or a certified letter from the embassy) to reopen it. It’s almost not worth it for the 71元 that my accounts say I left in the account . . . but the woman casually mentioned that there was over 1000元 in there! Apparently we got one last scholarship payment a few weeks after I left Xiamen. I guess for $300 I’ll try to figure out how to get my old passport here . . .
Today’s afternoon activity was a visit to Tiananmen and the Forbidden City. The buldings were beautiful, but the weather was clear and sunny and the air quality was great, so I spent most of the time looking at the clouds.
I did get one nice picture of the three Maria’s, though. We’re nearly 10% of the EAPSI China 2015 cohort – and the similarities go even further! Two of us are from Minnesota, two of us are the only two working at Tsinghua here in Beijing, they both go to Notre Dame, and their last names both start with G.
One other fun note from our time at the Forbidden City. Victoria, our language teacher, had mentioned that she speaks four languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, English, and Spanish). (There was a hilarious moment in our second language class when she was switching between Chinese and English, and accidentally started a sentence with “tambien”.) Today I finally took the opportunity to speak Spanish with her. To my surprise, it felt okay to speak Spanish and I didn’t once slip into Mandarin. Switching back into Chinese and English later really messed with my brain, though. Now that I am reasonably proficient in another language (especially one that many people consider difficult) I am less impressed when people speak a second language – but man, am I impressed when they have a third or a fourth, simultaneously held at a decent level. Code switching is not easy!
For dinner, I ended up at a 土家 restaurant with a few other EAPSI people. We had a great meal; except for the server switching out our money for a fake 100元 bill, it was the best experience I’ve had yet. We got some delicious beef, frog, spicy wood ear mushroom, and basically spicy potato chips.
Places like we ate tonight are nice for dinner with friends, but you almost can’t eat there alone and it quickly becomes a two-hour, 40元 affair – not really suitable for a quick lunch. I guess we’ve done alright for ourselves, but I’m surprised at how tiring eating out is. I guess I was coming from a very different place when I lived in Xiamen, which was a similar situation food-wise. But now at Stanford I cook or eat free food all the time, eating out maybe once or twice a month. The exhausting thing about eating out is that you have to get each meal as you need it – there’s no freezer food, no leftovers to microwave. We call it foraging, and we really don’t know where the next meal is going to come from. If it’s stressful for me, I can only imagine how it feels for those who don’t speak Chinese and/or are picker eaters than me.