New Semester is Kicking Off

We were introduced through our old friend Jia Rong to Damien, who grew up in Beijing but went to high school and college in our great Northern neighbor, famous for hockey, weed, and Terrence and Phillip, Canada. Damien is great because he speaks very colloquial English, and understands and uses American slag perfectly. I am not sure how he knows American speech patterns so well, but he does. He is also a huge metal fan. This Beijing native is into harder, more brutal music than even I am into. Also, he loves football (although he is a Colts fan.) Can’t win ’em all, I guess. In fact, we met him because we bought a Redskins shirt for him while stateside, at Jia-rong’s request.

Damien and his friend Li Xiao Quan (also a huge death metal fan) took us out to get some Beijing grub. These guys know how to eat. For under $30USD, we got clams, oysters, chicken wings, skewers, snails, fried rice, and enough beer to keep everybody jolly. Once again I have learned just how crucial it is to have a Beijinger as a friend, and how much better it is if that friend is male. I don’t mean that chauvinistically, it is just that, in my experience (with a few exceptions), the men are a lot more outgoing and willing to have a good time. I am also glad to have met Damien and Li because the bulk of my good friends from last semester have all left Beijing. Kate, the posh too-cool-for-school Cambridge girl has gone back to the land of posh, too-cool-for-school people. Lee, the soft-spoken unless drunk Korean friend I missed by a matter of hours arriving back in Beijing. After talking to him once we both arrived at our respective final destinations, we figured out that we probably passed one another as he was heading on the first floor departure tunnel, while I was going the opposite way on the arrival tunnel directly above.

All but a handful of EAP people went home (Kyle, the token Jew, thankfully is still here), and saddest of all, my best buddy/roommate Benny is gone. It is bittersweet, however, because he left Beijing to take a job in Shanghai, and for that I am very happy for him, plus he is only a quick flight away. Bob and Sharky, the only other British people in the whole sixty person SOAS program that I can stand for any extended length of time, are still around. The rest of the foreigners I have met here seem to have vastly different goals than I do in coming to China. Maybe not in theory, as everybody here talks about becoming fluent and making money, but nobody seems to understand that just saying it only wastes breath and makes it easier for the people who put in the work to get ahead, because the self-confidence gleaned by constantly telling oneself of coming prosperity without working towards it only serves to pacify the hunger to get ahead. So many of the people I meet, the people I share class with (when they decide to show up) are so much more focused on scoring sleazy Chinese club tail that they are flunking out of the classes that are supposed to be the very reason for their being in China. I actually find it very sad and pitiful that a school as specialized as the School of Oriental and African Studies has produced a class of short-sighted, immature juveniles whose only skill is pissing away their parents’ money, and much more to the point, pissing away time that I paid for in class because they show up unprepared and disrupt the class.

Starkly contrasted to these morons is Robert, my roommate from first and second year. Robert moved to China in October, initially to learn Chinese through pure immersion. After realizing that his Mandarin would improve exponentially faster by taking classes, he moved up from Zhuhai, Guandong province, up to Beijing, where he will be attending class at BNU. Robert got in yesterday and is crashing at our place until he can find a room, preferably with a Chinese family so he can learn even more Chinese. Robert and I have a lot of history, mostly all of it good, but the one thing that I will always give him credit for is that he is a very driven person. If nothing else, I am glad to have him in China for the sole fact that he poses a foil to those that surround me currently.

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