Beijing has been kind to me this time of the year, for it brought along a few friends from California that gave me a change of pace. While here, I’ve met up with Jackie – someone I’ve known since my sophomore year in high school. She was accompanied by Stephanie, someone I’ve known since second grade in elementary school! Lastly, I’ve met up with Li who lived on my floor this past year at Berkeley.
Stephanie had just graduated from college and came to Beijing for vacation. Jackie was also studying abroad on another program provided by her school. Li is actually a Chinese citizen and took a 26 hour train ride from Sichuan to Beijing.
Jackie, Stephanie, their friend Jenny and I had dinner at a famous dumpling house in Changping District of Beijing. It was pleasant seeing familiar faces at the dinner table. We caught up on our lives, gossiped (yo look at the demographic breakdown – 3 females:1 male), and enjoyed our food.
I never mentioned this earlier, but upon coming to China, I realized just how difficult it must be for international students studying in the US. Every international student is surrounded by English speakers, American cultures and values, and take classes wholly taught in English. Most of the locals here say that my Chinese is very good, but they don’t realize just how much I struggle. An important discovery I’ve made in China was my new-found respect for all international students in the US.
Li and his family used to live in Beijing until he was 11 years old or so. We took a taxi to one of his favorite childhood restaurants. We spoke only Mandarin the whole time. Because he is a native speaker, I had to ask him to clarify/simplify some things that he was telling me. It was during that moment when I gave him props for only speaking, reading, and writing in English at Berkeley. I know that, were I to be taking classes purely in Chinese, I would be struggling a great deal.
It was a terrific meal with good company, and I’m glad I was able to meet up with him in his hometown. While we were both still in Berkeley, Li also gave me a few hours worth of history and insight on Beijing/China – it got me more excited to go.
It’s always good seeing familiar faces in unfamiliar places!