I have to say, Peking University is the most beautiful campus I have ever been on. There are pagodas, a giant lake, lots of greenery – it is breathtaking. It took a while to get cleared through security (as PKU no longer has public access), but we finally made it to the Guanghua School of Business. We started the morning off with some introductions and then a crash course in Survival Chinese. Mandarin seems a little less daunting to me now. After classes, we took off in a taxi to explore some of the city. Our first stop was Wangfujing, which has a giant pedestrian street with everything you could possible think of, from Americana to Chinese markets. We walked through this off-the-beaten-path market and came across some vendors selling scorpion, bats, lizards, and starfish.
In a city of over 20 million people, we managed to bump into another group from our PKU program. What are the odds? After Wangfujing, we made our way to Tiananmen Square, where we bumped into a second group from our program.
Crazy! My fellow caucasian classmates were ogled by many Chinese tourists, asking to take pictures with them. Of course – we had 6 foot tall Alison and Anne who is a redhead from Germany.
[The Majestic Gate @ Tianenmen Square]
We had made plans earlier to meet some other PKU students at Sanlitun Village for dinner. Sanlitun Village is a modern shopping mall that caters to the wealthy Chinese and expats of Beijing. From A.P.C. to Alexander Wang to McQueen to Bauhaus. Sanlitun was supposed to be about a 15 minute drive from Tianenmen Square, but with traffic (oh God, the traffic), it was about 45 minutes. To top it off, it took us about 30 minutes to even hail a cab in the first place. About cabs (the bane of this trip so far): cab drivers are surly, sometimes they refuse to turn the meter on, and in that case, you must negotiate a price, many have refused to even drive us somewhere, and it is extremely difficult to communicate where your destination is even with a map. After a lot of yelling with the driver through Beijing traffic, we were greeted by the iconic Addidas store at Sanlitun Village. We dined at a restaurant (the name I cannot recall) that was situated in an architectural wonder of a hotel with a very cute name, The Opposite House. The night ended with another long cab ride back to the hotel and some confusion along the way as to where we were going. I suppose I should get used to it because there will be a lot of cab rides between now and the next couple of weeks.
Day 3 was long, very long, but also incredibly interesting and informative. We had classes at PKU from 9am to 9pm. We started out the first half of the day with an incredible lecture from Dr. Li Ma. He gave us an unbias perspective of Chinese culture and its affect on business relationships. The Chinese value modesty and harmony, and will go to great lengths to maintain the two, through implicit communication, round-about ways of expression, white lies, etc. The lecture not only taught me about Chinese people, but also about myself. I discovered that my values are somewhere between that of the Chinese and Canadians.
After lunch, we learned some more Survival Chinese and finished the day with a lecture from a guest speaker of PKU’s history department. By 9pm, we were exhausted but with 3 yuan beers (the equivalent of $0.50) at the convenience store by our hotel, how could we not indulge in some Yanjing (the local beer). Some Yanjing and melatonin is a great combination for a good night’s sleep when your bed is as hard as rock.