Archive for ‘September, 2012’









This week we got a fun surprise: we were told that we would have classes on Saturday and Sunday as well – as a compensation for next weeks National Holiday. Too bad we couldn’t make any big trips this weekend, but luckily we made a spectacular trip last Sunday: we climbed the Great Wall of China on one of the parts that hasn’t been reconstructed yet: Jiankou 箭扣.

We first had to take the subway for half an hour, take a bus for an hour and then had to negotiate a price for a hour-long ride with a minibus for seven people. The bumpy ride in this crappy vehicle was quite dangerous, but we made it up the mountains and once we were there we were able to laugh about all the accidents our driver almost got us into.  When the car couldn’t go up anymore we had to make a 40 minute intense walk on steep hills, but once we were on the wall it was all worth it, cause the view was incredible. After we had recovered from this work-out session we saw that this part of the Wall really was in disrepair: some parts didn’t have decent steps anymore and other parts had steps which were only 15 cm wide but 40 cm high, so we had to use our hands a lot to make sure we wouldn’t fall down. Apparently we only did the easy part of this section, so I’m really really curious to see the rest.

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I was able to control my baking cravings for 28 days. On the 29th day I made a cheesecake. But making the cake wasn’t to sooth my own needs, but it was to give one of my new friends in Beijing the birthday cake he deserved.

Making a cake in a small room in a dorm demands some creativity. I was only able to make a no-bake cake, since I don’t have an oven and because I didn’t take any of my tools with me, I either had to buy them new or try to think of creative ways to get the result I wanted. In the end it was more about the symbolism than about it being the perfect cake, but luckily the b-day boy liked it.

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I visited the Panjiayuan market 潘家园 on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago. This market takes place every Saturday and Sunday morning and is supposed to be the place to score some antiques. I don’t think any of the items I saw that morning can be called real antiques, but if you don’t have too high expectations of scoring some old pieces, it is a fun place to visit in the weekend. There’s everything varying from books, calligraphy, ceramics, furniture, to portraits of the old leaders of China. One of the most fun parts of the market is the bargaining; sometimes prices start 10 times higher than their actual price and you’ll never know if you’ve made a good bargain. Bargaining involves lots of drama, making unsatisfied faces and walking away in the hope the vendors will call you back for a lower price. Or in the case of one of my friends: she got a really low price by drawing a smiley and a heart on a paper. So if your normal bargaining skills aren’t getting you anywhere, you should try this technique.

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Today I had my first class at my uni in Beijing. Since I don’t have any course outlines I had no idea what kind of treat I was in for, but apparently we’ll be discussing texts of Confucius in this class. After class ended I was – and still am – exhausted of my one and a half hour of trying to understand what the teacher said in Chinese, so when I got home I really needed some comfort food. Eventually I had – surprisingly – Chinese food for dinner, but the thing that I was really craving was a decent pizza. One with a crispy crust, delicious toppings and caramalized mozzarella and parmesan on top. I guess I’ll just have to look at the pictures instead.

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Getting myself multiple decent dinners and snacks a day is not the only thing I do in Beijing. Since classes will start tomorrow I had the last two weeks to arrange things for uni, get settled in my room, get myself accustomed to the neighbourhood, partying and of course also some sightseeing.

Our first trip – or at least the first one where I didn’t forget my camera – brought us to the Forbidden City. The architectonics were amazing and knowing a bit about the history (for a quick update look here) made it way more interesting to walk around between the humongous buildings. What really made the trip special was the spectacular view – thanks to the clear blue sky – you had from one of the towers outside the walls where you could look all over Beijing.

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Some international students I’ve met tell me they’ve a hard time getting used to eating Chinese food for breakfast – I can tell you I have no problem adjusting to this myself. The other day I got out of bed a bit late and was extremely hungry. I went to this tiny little restaurant and asked what they  recommended. This is how I ended up having a steaming hot bowl of beef noodle soup 牛肉面 as my breakfast.

But a thing I end up getting almost every single morning is a steamed bun filled with meat – 包子. These breads don’t even cost €0.20 and are totally awesome. I prefer mine filled with pork or beef, but they also sell it with veggies, somethings that looks like thin glass noodles, chicken, tofu or other things that I cannot understand in Chinese.

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For the last one and a half week I have been eating like a queen. Every meal I had was made by someone else – either served to me in a restaurant of bought from small food stalls on the street. Almost every single thing I ate was incredibly delicious and even though food in Beijing is much more expensive than in other parts of China, it still is very cheap compared to Dutch prices.

Yesterday I was scanning through some pictures I took from my last couple of weeks in the Netherlands – things I haven’t blogged about yet – and then I started missing Western food and cooking. When I saw the pictures of this tiramisu I got an instant craving for it. Me and my housemates had it as a dessert after this porchetta. I’ve added a little bit more limoncello than the recipe said and it gave the tiramisu a delicious lemony flavor without being too overpowering. It got us all pretty tipsy though.
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After we got this amazing breakfast a Swedish girl and me went on a walk to check out the neighborhoods around campus. We ended up getting a haircut which was great because after they’d cut it for the price we’d agreed on, they didn’t want to let go of our blonde hairs and kept on styling them. We ended up with shining hairs. After we left the hairdresser we bumped into an alley which looked like a local market, so we took a look. Turned out we were in a local – also called: smelly and unhygienic – market where we were the only foreigners. Because of our shining blonde hairs we quickly turned into an attraction in the street. The market was really cool: a lot of interesting food and people and not touristy at all.

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