Week 2| June 4, 2013
Week 2. After some serious bumps in the road, I'm pretty sure I'm starting to get a hang of this whole China thing. After a major debit card debacle (apparently even if you tell Bank of America that you're traveling abroad, they'll still shut down your card without warning. Sweet.), I got to do some pretty awesome things this past Sunday.
But first, I'm pretty sure I told you that I'd tell you a bit more about the hutong I visited last week. So, hutongs are these little alleys and streets that connect in lines and meet up in courtyards which are surrounded by little houses. Okay, that was a terrible explanation. And like I told you last week, I forgot my camera, so my suggestion is to google it (http://www.beijinghutongtour.com/hutong-guide/top-10-hutongs/nan-luo-gu-xiang-huton/). The area I visited was this crazy mix of commercial and residential. The main drag was full of awesome shops and food stops. As I mentioned, I ate some amazing dumplings (I preferred the fried ones, over the boiled. I picked the most delicious, which was chiles and chicken), but I also bought some churros will this strange but delicious chocolate sauce. If you're ever in Beijing, take line 6 on the subway and exit on Nanluoguxiang (which happens to be the name of the main street in this area of hutongs). I think a lot of foreigners stop here, because the stores were super expensive and had a lot of tourist-y items. We also visited a brewery (Great Leap Brewery: http://www.greatleapbrewing.com/) that also catered to a lot of foreigners (practically everyone there was speaking English), but it was nice to have a little taste of home. When talking to some of my Chinese co-workers, they didn't even know what a brewery was, so I don't think beer is part of the culture. The beer was pretty expensive (for a point of reference, the beer cost 40 yuan (divide by 6.14 if you want the USD amount), while my dinner cost about 20. I won't be having a lot of drinks here in China.
Switching gears, my work has been really interesting. Basically, I'm going to be examining as many juvenile diversion programs as I can, and my supervisor wants me to examine all fifty states. According to one source I found, there are approximately 750 different types of diversion programs in the U.S., and as I can't seem to find any sort of state law compilation, I'm going state by state. Sort of tedious work, but it is actually perfect for me in that it is orderly work. I like having a clear project that is easy to understand and has tangible results. My office does a lot of advocacy work, and they work hard to reform juvenile and migrant worker law. They want to use my research to help implement these types of programs in China, which is a pretty awesome responsibility for me. And by awesome I mean both huge and cool. The relationship between public interest NGOs and private law firms is very complicated here in China, but from what I gathered, an NGO has to be affiliated with a private firm in order to practice law. So the Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Center (along with the migrant worker NGO) is a public interest organization under the umbrella of the private law firm, Zhicheng. China has interesting laws in this area (which I clearly don't understand that well). Unfortunately, I won't be able to go to any type of court hearing because I'm not a Chinese citizen. But that's okay, I really like researching and my co-workers are amazing, so I'm not complaining.
Oh, and I picked up a part-time job. Ha, that sounded like a serious commitment, didn't it? But, I'm working with 5 kids on their English pronunciation...and for those of you who know me well, this is the perfect job for me. The kids are between 3-5 years old, and my first class was last night. I had a blast; I've never taught a language before, but I've taught millions of other classes for kids. It turns out, with kids, language barriers are pretty easy to overcome when it comes to games, singing, and jumping around. These kids have variant English levels, but they all have some sort base. I worked at a YMCA in Boise (where I'm from) for five years, and a major component of my job was creating and implementing programs for kids. I connect to kids pretty easily, and as I've had a bit of trouble acclimating here, it was nice to just be silly and have fun. When it comes to kids (okay, and in life in general), I never get embarrassed, so I have no problem with dancing like a loon, using funny voices, and just generally being crazy. I say this with confidence as the room was also filled with the kids' parents (most of them do not speak English). I'll be teaching four days a week for an hour each time (have you ever tried keeping 3-5 year olds busy for and hour? Try it, I dare you.), and as they were trying to hug/kiss me after the first day, I'd say it should prove to be a successful venture.
On Sunday I visited Tiananmen Square. No, I didn't take any pictures because I was by myself (how would I have taken a picture of myself?), and I figured if you wanted to see all the buildings/monuments, you could find much better pictures online (http://architecture.about.com/od/asiasouthasia/ig/Ancient-Beijing/Tiananmen-Square.htm) (oh, and p.s., I'm not really in to taking a lot of pictures when traveling. I find that postcards and the like are a much better representation of the architecture, scenery, etc. I mostly only take photos with me and my companions in them, so sorry if you're more of a visual thinker. And like I said, taking pictures of myself when traveling alone is sort of weird. I think I'd end up being like one of those people with their iphones in the mirror, and that is just too much. And how many times have you had to sit through watching the slide show of your crazy aunt's travel photos? Yeah, no one looks back at their picture of the Yellowstone scenery. The ones that get framed have people in them. Wow, that was rant, wasn't it?). It was a super smoggy day and very busy with tourists, Chinese and foreign alike, so I felt pretty out of my element. But, I think that is what I'm here for, right? I can now check Tienanmen Square off my Beijing to-do list.
This week we have to work through Sunday because we get Monday - Wednesday off next week for the Dragon Festival. I'll tell you all about that in my next post...stay tuned for more Kylie-Beijing-Fun!