Perhaps my title is a little dramatic, but that’s what it feels like spending my last weekend in Beijing. With a test last week and a test next week, I’m on my last chance for a break in between two stressful weeks, although it isn’t really much of a rest.

This week was smoggy and relatively chilly, although to be saying that after the cold of the winter seems kind of strange. Still, the weather meant that I wanted to spend more time indoors, which I guess ended up being good for my study habits. I decided to buckle down and managed to be relatively on top of my work, which, for me, is pretty impressive in the penultimate week of the semester. That didn’t mean that I studied as much for my test on Friday as I should have, but at least it meant that I was pretty prepared during the week, which eased some stress – although at this point it’s less stress and more resignation to my fate.

On Friday we had an information meeting for our study trips, which made me pretty excited for going to Tibet. I did, however, find out that I’ll move out of my host family’s apartment before traveling, and stay in the dorm with the non immersion students afterwards, which was kind of a surprise. It really made me reflect on my failings in my relationship with them, as I haven’t formed as good of one as I’d hoped. Of course I have my excuses – this term has been exhausting, and after talking so much all day I hardly want to come back and talk more, on top of having homework to do. But still, it’s surprising to think that this time next week, I’ll be out of their apartment for good.

After the meeting there was an activity in Taiji Fan, with one of my favorite teachers. It’s incredibly satisfying to snap open a Taiji fan and hear it snap. We made a bit of a spectacle as a group of foreigners on a lawn, and a few people stopped to take pictures (and probably videos) of us as we bumbled through the moves. Along with us on the lawn was a recently married couple taking photos (the second one we’d passed that day and apparently the sixth some of the non immersion students had seen that week). Although I felt somewhat ridiculous, particularly when I messed up my fan opening, some of the short clips that a different teacher took of us look almost like we knew what we were doing. Overall, it was great fun.

Afterwards, I have to admit, I did something my mom wouldn’t be proud of. In fact, it was something she would be pretty horrified to hear. So I’m sorry mom. I rode a bike home without a helmet.

The teacher instructing us in the fan lives in the same area as me, and offered to go biking home with me (on the yellow Ofo bikes that anyone can take all over the city, as long as you have the app). I had ridden around in the relative safety of campus, and was nervous about doing it on the street with the traffic and especially the buses that occasionally pull into the bike lane to take on and let off passengers. But it was surprisingly easy, particularly because we bypassed some of the more busy traffic areas to do things like ride through a part of the Beijing Sport University (which was beautiful) and take a somewhat roundabout route to my neighborhood. It was a great ride, despite the rather gray weather, and I’m glad I did it at least once – even if it went against all the times my mom told me (rightfully) that I should always wear a helmet when I ride.

This weekend I planned to spend entirely on homework (and did spend my Friday evening finding sources for my paper), but I did take a break today to go to the Silk Market, seeing as I’ve always been too tired or busy to go when the others did. It was more like a mall and less like a market than I expected, but I did get to flex my bargaining muscles and managed to do it rather well. The thing about me is I like to look at things, and think about buying them, and then not buy them. If the price is a little too high, I’d rather just give in and walk away then spend the money. But apparently this is actually a good tactic for getting the price down. So for any Americans unsure of how to bargain, a few tips: one, speak Chinese. The price was automatically halved because I’d kept talking to the shopkeeper in Chinese, even when she was speaking English. Two, don’t have much money to spend. If you obviously have money, they’re not going to believe you when you say you only have 200 kuai (a little less than $30) and don’t want to spend over 140. Three, always be prepared to give up. If your price is really too low, they won’t make the sale. Walking away is a great tactic, but only as a last resort. For me, someone who genuinely would rather give up on something than pay money, it has worked wonders. In fact, I actually feel guilty for dragging the price so low, but I did manage to get a pretty good gift for my brother at a very reasonable price, so I guess I should feel proud.

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Some flowers blooming on campus. Pretty much everything is blooming now, meaning that you occasionally get whiffs of lovely flowers as you walk (or bike) around.

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The group trying to look cool with our fans.

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A pair of fashion sunglasses at the Silk Market.


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