Welcome back to the FIFTH YEAR EDITION of the China blog. Year three in Shenzhen is already off to a fabulous start. New friends from around the globe, new neighborhood, new apartment, new classes, new running routes...I have a lot to share with you, so sit back and let me take you on a tour!
FIRST STOP: Welcome to Xili
I’ve transitioned off campus and now live in a studio apartment in the town of Xili (see map below). I absolutely love love love it here. Only one stop on the metro from University Town (Peking University’s metro stop), I can bike to campus in 15 minutes. If it’s pouring rain or I am simply not in the mood to dodge moped traffic and sweat through all of my clothes (it’s 90 degrees with 95% humidity), I can also take a $1 Uber to campus. Living off campus not only allows for increased independence, far superior dining options, my own washing machine (those of you who are familiar with my quirky laundry obsession understand that this is a pretty big deal), and a more diverse social life, but it is also encouraging me to view Shenzhen from a different angle. While I certainly made an effort to take weekly excursions and fully immerse myself in Shenzhen these past two years, Shenzhen just seems more exciting when you’re not confined to a dormitory/campus lifestyle. I no longer observe the city as an outsider. I’m now part of the city’s bustle. I’m a local. Well, almost.
Below are some photos of Xili’s popular pedestrian street (“366 Street” or “366 大街”). Only a 2-minute walk from my apartment, 366 is lined with restaurants and has all your basic necessities (including a movie theatre and multiple karaoke joints). In daylight, locals can be spotted sitting around 366 playing games, napping, and shopping. The commotion doesn’t stop. All ages can be seen dancing in the street well past midnight. I’ll be sure to join them once I can learn their fancy dance moves. Maybe by next week. Stay tuned.
A few minutes’ walk in the opposite direction from 366 Street is Starbucks, Shenzhen Polytechnic University, and a convenient metro station (Liuxiandong Station). My best pal (Fortune) is taking Chinese classes at Shenzhen Polytechnic, so it’s nice to have her nearby!
SECOND STOP: Welcome to my apartment on Shigu Road (“石鼓路”)
My apartment is nothing fancy, but it could not be any more perfect. It is so…ME. Cozy. Zen. Clean. Although setting up my room in a timely manner meant experiencing the world’s most chaotic IKEA trip known to man (*Note to self: I am never again going to IKEA on a Saturday afternoon, especially in China), it was well worth it because I feel 100% settled and right at home. As an added perk, my room came with a big flat screen TV that only shows Chinese movies and television. Terrific Chinese practice! Yesterday evening, I watched "Bride Wars" in Chinese. It was...interesting.
The best part of my living arrangement is that I am directly across the hall from two of my best guy friends (Harsh from India and Fin from the UK). My friend Michael (from Michigan) also lives in our building on a different floor. We regularly eat dinner together and share Ubers to/from campus. They are my family away from home. There is also an adorable café / coffee shop on the first floor of our building (with fast Wi-Fi), so I use it as a change of scenery from my usual Starbucks office.
So, what kind of work am I doing in my new coffee shop? Well, apart from working on my thesis (which I will defend in May), I am taking Financial Accounting. While I can’t say that I could ever see myself as an accountant, I am thoroughly enjoying the course. The ability to analyze financial statements to make effective business decisions will surely come in handy no matter what path I ultimately follow. My professor explains the concepts in a very logical and straightforward manner and definitely holds us accountable for new material with daily quizzes, three major exams, and a final group project. If you don’t hear from me for a bit, it’s safe to assume that I am busy nerding out in my coffee shop calculating income statements and writing balance sheets.
THIRD STOP: I brought you to dinner!
My favorite quick and easy go-to lunch / dinner option in China is “malatang”. You can find malatang (spicy numbing Sichuan pepper chili oil soup) all over China and it always works the same way. 1. You are given a basket. 2. You select your veggies / noodles / optional unidentifiable meat 3. The soup and contents are boiled in spicy numbing Sichuan pepper chili oil 4. You select your optional seasoning.
However, I am an outlier and do it my own way because I can’t handle the numbing Sichuan pepper chili oil. Therefore, I usually just select my veggies and tofu and request them to boil it in water, which I then drain and top with green onions, garlic, and ginger. Chinese people always think I am extremely weird for this. They don’t understand how I could possibly enjoy the vegetables without the chili oil. It baffles them every single time. Even after going to my same malatang lady for five consecutive days, my alternative method still brings about confusion and utter shock. “No chili oil?!? Why?!? It will not taste good”. Every. Single. Time.
FOURTH STOP: Meet my friends 朋友
Life is excellent in the social department. I am lucky to have such incredible friends from all around the world in Shenzhen. The past few weekends have been filled with endless entertainment. Last weekend my friends JB and Johnny had a housewarming party at their new apartment. Yesterday, we all went for Chinese BBQ and Karaoke for my friend Amanda’s birthday. Next weekend I have a friend from Shanghai visiting me in Shenzhen. Work hard play hard!
FINAL STOP: My new running route
For the last part of your tour, I took you on my new running route. My new morning running route is a perfect 4-mile loop that goes from my apartment to my university’s campus and back. Running in the mornings makes for great people-watching. School children riding on the back of their parents’ electric bikes, chickens hanging from window fronts to be cooked for lunch, “food trucks” serving morning breakfast dumplings…I took you along to do some people-watching this morning. Enjoy!
That’s all for this week, folks! Back to nerd mode to prepare for my financial accounting exam coming up. Love you all and sending hugs from my new home in Xili. Come visit!