It is perhaps the most the most extraordinarily ordinary things that I find so fascinating here in Beijing. While many of the biggest differences are not new to me (having spent time here before in 2009), I still find often find myself intrigued by the absolutely ordinary. It is these differences that make living here so exciting and rewarding on an everyday basis – whether it’s hanging my clothes up to dry (I’ve always had a dryer back home), learning how to use the shower (which baffled me at first – they are styled quite differently over here), or eating what I believed to be chicken, only to be told that it was in fact pigeon (it was actually quite savory), each day I find myself with no shortage of surprises.
With several hours of daylight left after completing my placement test at BLCU, I hopped back on the subway and headed over to Hou Hai. One of three small lakes in central Beijing (the other two are Xi Hai and Bei Hai), Hou Hai is a rare and beautiful reprieve from the city. The outskirts of the lake are littered with hutongs, narrow little alleyways and streets that are old Chinese neighborhoods. I found it quite exciting to wind throughout them, taking in pieces of the old city that have been left behind and bashfully offer greetings to the curious residents watching me as I passed. After I had gotten lost more than a few times in a number of different hutongs, I continued on and finally managed to reach the lake. The lake is gorgeous, with weeping willows all along the waters edge, bicycle carriages winding slowly around, and old men standing in large groups watching others play mahjong.
I had to get home for dinner with my host family, otherwise I would have been eager to watch the lake come to life at night. If I remember right, there are a series of very popular small bars and places to eat along the waters edge; lanterns are hung at every establishment – bars, restaurants, and boats alike, making it an absolutely magnificent scene in the evening.
One of the hutongs I explored on the way to Hou Hai.