On Thursday this week, I was kindly invited out to dinner with Sammy and some of her friends here. I always enjoy going out with locals, because they know the best places to go, and generally don't get lost like I am so accustomed to doing when I am exploring with other foreigners. We went to a Korean barbeque restaurant in my area. Apparently my area is very popular for Koreans, and you can tell, by the amount of Korean restaurants just about outnumbering the Chinese ones
. Once Sammy's friends heard that I had not been to a Karaoke place before, they insisted on taking me. After finding out that the weekend didn't suit everyone, we went straight from the restaurant to the Karaoke place. They are very popular in Beijing. The one we went to hired out private rooms, which was a good, safe introduction to karaoke for me. Everyone in the group was a really good singer, so good in fact, that I assumed that the microphone distorted the voices slightly to keep them in tune. I confidently grabbed the microphone for a solo English song, only to find that the microphone did not work magic, and I was pretty terrible! It was still so much fun, and I loved rapping and singing all night, even though my musical talents were so badly lacking.
On Saturday, I went exploring with my friend Melissa to the 798 Art district. I had never been before, but was recommended to go, as it was the Beijing equivalent of the New York SoHo district or Montmartre in Paris.
Stepping into 798 was almost like stepping into Disneyland or another theme park. The building style, the general vibe and the art which filled the street were a stark contrast to the busy Beijing outside. There are so many little art galleries wherever you walk, and most are free and allow photos, so it was a great day of walking around and admiring some really talented people's works
. I loved walking down the street and seeing the graffiti art on the walls, or the random novelty statues that adorned the streets. Walking down the little alleyways lead to really unique galleries and shops. The buildings look quite Western in their design, some looking especially quirky and modern, perfectly suiting the area. We stopped for lunch in a restaurant that looked like a country pub from back home, with exposed brick work, beamed high ceilings and a beautiful bar. The food there was definitely some of the best I have eaten in Beijing, and it was a really enjoyable experience. Melissa and I especially found it funny when they played hardcore rap music as their background music, which seemed to be quite the opposite of what you think they should play.
It was such a nice day, and I can't wait to go back when it's a little warmer, because it will be so much more comfortable to wander around it, and there were some great outdoor places to sit.
Without the smell of Hot Cross Buns, the colours of Easter eggs overtaking the supermarkets and the excitement of a public holiday, I had almost forgotten that it was Easter this weekend. Without my family, and the constant commercial reminders, it was easy for me to not realise this weekend was Easter. On Good Friday, I went to class as usual, and nobody mentioned it
. I don't think the teachers were even aware of the significance of the day. It was a strange feeling, as the rest of my family were back home, celebrating in the city with the extended family. They sent me pictures, as I was lying in bed, and it felt so unusual to not be there, too. I had a late breakfast at an American restaurant with two Danish friends, Anne and Ida, which was really nice. We didn't have an Easter egg hunt, but we chatted and drank milkshakes for breakfast, so I was still getting my chocolate fix in one way! I then went to Church with Hannah, a friend from the States. We arrived right on time, but the Church was even more full than usual on Easter Sunday. I couldn't help but have the biggest smile on my face as they announced that the topic for the sermon was 'Peace Be With You', as once my nanna misheard a Chinese person saying 'pleased to meet you' to her as 'peace be with you', and it is something with have gently teased her with since. The church easily had 150-200 people left standing between the aisles, against the walls and in front of the pillars as every single seat was taken. Hannah and I also had to stand for the majority of the service, but jumped at the chance to sit when two men left early. With no other part of the city acknowledging the holiday, it was clear that the more religious Easter has not taken off here, in the same way Christmas has, so I really enjoyed still being able to celebrate it at Church. After the service, the children dressed in halos handed out plastic eggs that they had decorated themselves to everyone. They spoke little English, except 'Happy Easter' and 'take one!'. It was undeniably the sweetest and cutest moment I have experienced since I have arrived, and I will definitely treasure my egg.
Coming home, I watched the first Collingwood match of 2013 on my laptop. Anyone who knows the Fishers knows how passionate we are about Collingwood, and watching from afar was agonising, as I so love being there live, with the family
. It was still so great to see the first win for the season, and I was happy playing the role of official statistician, timekeeper, injury updater, and special comments girl to my family watching from the stadium, as I had all the information at my fingertips. After playing around with the connection to the streaming website for a while, I have the system sorted, and will be more ready for Carlton next week.
I have had another great week in Beijing, with a busy weekend, and weekdays filled with homework and study. Dad and Hayley are coming tomorrow, and I could not be more excited about seeing them!
This week I hit the month-long mark of being here in China. In one sense, I couldn't believe how quickly this time had passed, but in another, looking back, so much has happened in the last month, it feels like six months. From being moved into a new class three weeks in a row, to settling into my dorm and little things to finding my preferred local supermarket and off-campus restaurant. I feel comfortable living here now, and it definitely a nice feeling, though every day has moments where I am constantly reminded how far outside my comfort zone I am!