It was a hastily made decision to go to Beijing for the weekend.  At the time I felt as though I had been working hard and making strides in my language classes as well as my general understanding of the Chinese culture, and I felt as though I deserved a bit of a vacation from it all.  I dreamed of interacting with people who spoke my native language, of buying drinks for newly arrived tourists who knew nothing of China, of relating my stories of what it’s like living in a second tier Chinese city, of impressing the Chinese workers at the hostel with my rapid improvement of their language.

My first night back in Beijing was a huge disappointment, as many of you may have already read.  I finished the night in a drunken, culture crazed delirium, ashamed of my own culture yet still so confused of the culture I am now immersed in.  I wrote the opening paragraph to my “Baffled in Beijing” post before I went to bed, still swaying from the booze, nearly in tears.

I slept late the next morning and went to Xidan, a massive shopping center in Beijing, to try to find a suitable English-Chinese Chinese-English dictionary.  I went to the largest bookstore in Beijing, four stories of books with an entire quarter of one floor dedicated to English speakers learning Mandarin, and found nothing.  Grumpy, tired, and distraught, I went back to the hostel and set about to meet some people with whom I might have a meaningful conversation with.  Alex and Mark were both Americans working Hangzhou, a touristy town on China’s East Coast, as high school guidance councilors for students seeking colleges in America.  They had been here for about the same time I had been, and like me, much of their expectations about China being a place of great adventure and exoticism had been dashed.  They spent their days huddled in front of computer screens, every so often speaking with students who were more concerned about offending the foreigners or speaking with incorrect grammar than actually finding a suitable school in America.  They too were in such of a foreign outlet in Beijing.

We started a four person game of pool with a Chinese boy named Guang. Guang had learned English from watching American movies, had a girlfriend from Chicago, spent a semester studying in Germany, and had visited countless other countries across Europe, which is very rare for Chinese people.  He was also a Christian, and a bi-sexual, which, combined with his heritage and upbringing, made him one of the most fascinating individuals I have ever met.

After pool Guang took us to a nearby restaurant and ordered us a delicious meal of deep fried pork, sautéed eggplant, and chicken dish that made my lips burn, my stomach rumble, and my taste buds numb for the rest of the night.  We went out to the bars together, and ended up at pub with live music, a guitar player and a drummer from the Philipines who played the best version of Scarlet Begonias I have ever heard.  I spent hours sitting three feet from them, watching them with intensity as they rolled off a variety of classic rock tunes.  For the first time since my arrival in Beijing I felt whole again, having had a genuine experience with a Beijing local, and seeing this amazing band play.  It was the sort of thing that I came to Beijing for, and I all but forgot about my depressing experience from the night before.

The blissfulness of that night did not last into the morning.  Before we had gone out that night I had put my computer into my bag and lazily tossed it on to my bed, and found it gone the next day.  I was staying in a ten bed dorm room, and all but three of the inhabitants had left before I woke up the next morning, so there was no chance of its recovery.  I immediately went into a fit of rage, of sorrow, of self-pity.  I cursed myself for being so careless, for coming to Beijing, for coming to China at all.  I wanted to go home.  I wanted my mom and my dad.  I wanted to play with my dogs and forget it all happened in the first place.  It was the worst Easter I have ever had, and probably ever will have.

Check back tomorrow to read about what happened next…no I didn’t find my computer, but I made a lot of new friends that I will remember for the rest of my life.

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