I Turned 20 in Beijing

Jordan Meyers
June 26, 2013

My birthday weekend was full of surprises. I thought I would go to the train station, catch a half-day ride to a northern coastal town, and live a little precariously for a few days. Unfortunately, the station sold out of those adventures by the time I got there on Friday. They only offered a smattering of tickets to a few far-flung places for eye-widening prices. So, lesson learned: Next time I tackle the train station I do it a few weeks in advance.

After Friday’s travel fail, I stuck around campus. On Saturday, I went to an English bookstore on the city’s east side. It was a homey place on the second floor of a brick building with warm lighting and cozy, pomegranate-colored armchairs. The books were priced like they were originals, though, so I only browsed and made mental wish lists.

Later that day, I went out with some other IES students to 五道口(wǔ dào kǒu): a popular street that comes to life at night when its three dance clubs open and hundreds of people flow between them, chatting and buying savory foods from the street’s vendors. It turns out Beijing dance clubs are just like the American ones I’ve been to, including the music they play. The only notable difference is how many people there are. The crowds give the impression that time is moving a little faster, which is exciting. I had a great night.

The only big cat I actually saw at the Beijing Zoo. The others were hidden from view because they retreated inside.

I must have seen two thousand animals on Sunday, my actual birthday, at the Beijing Zoo. That place is huge. It’s beautiful, too. I remember thinking, while staring at a large, gushing waterfall that some swans and ducklings were floating around, “There are not many places in Beijing this stunning.” Of course it was sad, too. You can justify zoos by saying they’re a needed source for empathy, that the animals serve as ambassadors for their species, but a cage is still a cage. You can’t help but feel bad for the creatures in them.

Monday was back to the usual. I’m in the second-year language class with three other American students. The summer classes here at 北外 are extremely small and personalized; we even have daily, one-hour, one-on-one sessions with a tutor after our first four hours of class from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Wednesdays we have off. On average, we cover a chapter every class, and we have daily quizzes on 30-some new words. My language skills are rapidly improving.

On Tuesday evenings, I have my Understanding China course for two hours, which has turned out to be demanding, but rewarding. I knew next to nothing about China a few weeks ago, and I already have a skeletal understanding of the country’s political configuration and past one hundred years of history.

Living in the foreign student dormitory, I haven’t met any locals yet, so that’s my new goal: Make a Chinese friend before my next blog. 

Please email me or comment below if you have any questions about the IES Beijing program! (meyesjo@grinnell.edu)

Jordan Meyers

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I&rsquo;m from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where I lived almost my whole life before I moved to Iowa to study English, East Asia, and pre-medicine at Grinnell College. I&#39;m a third-year now, and for me that means I&#39;m ready for a change in scenery. When I make the time, I like reading newspaper columns, writing, and hiking when it&rsquo;s sunny. I love eating warm chocolate muffins with milk. I&#39;ve never left the states before, so my head is full of what I&#39;m sure are one-dimensional impressions of Beijing. I&#39;m eager for those impressions to become 3D, and I can&rsquo;t wait to share what I learn living abroad this summer!</span></p>

Destination:
Term:
2013 Summer 1, 2013 Summer 2
Home university:
Grinnell College
Major:
English
Pre-Med
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