Looking Back

It’s been about 2 months since the end of the PIB program, but it doesn’t really end.
I’ve found out little remnants of it in my life, here and there.

I’m still doing okay in my 3rd year Chinese classes (thanks to all the 老师们!).
I haven’t replied to 高老师’s email from 19 days back — it’s still sitting in my Gmail inbox.
There is 中文桌子 every week at Brown, and it never has Chinese food.
I still have to write a report for the Freeman ASIA scholarship I got to cover the PiB costs.
I have scoured out all the bubble tea places on campus, and decided that the Tealuxe Black Milk Tea is the best.
Thi is visiting this weekend, taking a bus all the way from UPenn to Brown.
燕尾蝶 (Wings of Love) is my most played song on iTunes.
Cynthia and I are heading over to Thi’s house for Thanksgiving for a little PiB reunion.
When I go to the bubble tea store run by a Chinese couple, I order my bubble tea in Chinese.
I sometimes say “什么?” instead of “what?” in conversations.
I still get emails from a PiB friend who sends me Jay Chou and Wang Leehom songs.

To wrap it up, here’s a little memoir video by Jessica about our PiB experience:

Untitled from Jessica Blake on Vimeo.

PiB Transcripts

After the program, I was in a daze. It didn’t occur to me that school would start so soon.

As I was registering for my classes, I realized I had a huge, bold red mark on the bottom of my Chinese class, stating: ” You do not have the prerequisites for this course.” Of course, being at Brown, all you have to do is email the professor for an override, but it reminded me about sending in a transcript from PiB.

The PiB transcripts are free and are proof of the grueling hours you put into Chinese over the summer.

  • For Brown students (and as far as I know, for other non-Princeton students as well), the grade does not appear on your transcript. The transcript from PiB just lets the university know that you took an accredited Chinese course and if you pass, grants you advanced placement into the appropriate Chinese class.
  • If you go to Princeton, I’m sorry. Yes, you get a permanent grade etched into your transcript (and even if you graduated from Princeton this past spring, it still affects your GPA).

Transcript requests can be found here, and can be sent by mail or fax.

Bubble Tea 101

Our bubble tea adventure.

During the first few weeks of Princeton in Beijing, we found a small window of a bubble tea shop near the West Gate of BNU. This was possibly the first time that I had conversed with Thi. We had no idea what to order — we didn’t even know how to say bubble tea.Our adventure continued throughout various parts of Beijing — wherever we went, we sought out a bubble tea store. I went to Xidan with Cynthia and Thi, ending up at a large shopping mall instead of the bargaining markets we were looking for. Frustrated, what did we do?

We decided to get some bubble tea.

At this point, we had to acknowledge our addiction. Cynthia, who is also an avid eater of Chinese popsicles, had bubble tea nearly everyday. If she missed a day, she would have two the next day. Even while we were in Xi’an, we managed to find a bubble tea store and quench our thirst. When we had measly dumplings for dinner and the restaurant power went out, what did we do?

We had some bubble tea.

photo credit: 方仙雅

We also walked all over BNU’s nearby alleys and located an incredibly cheap and delicious bubble tea store, right next to the BNU Middle School. They even offered delivery (a service which we often took advantage of). We even became good friends with the owner, and took a picture with him on the last day we were in Beijing.

photo credit: 胡瑞安

We’ve picked up some inside knowledge along the way about bubble tea. 珍珠奶茶 (zhēnzhū nǎichá) is usually regular black milk tea with boba (no special flavor), but some stores can add flavor/syrup. One cup of bubble tea is usually around 5 – 7 kuai.

  • 我要一杯珍珠奶茶。(Wǒ yào yībēi zhēnzhū nǎichá) : I want a cup of bubble tea.
  • 现在打开吗?(Xiànzài dǎkāi ma?) : Would you like me to “open” the cup (with the straw)?
  • 珍珠 (zhēnzhū):bubbles; boba; tapioca pearls
  • 椰果 (yē guǒ):coconut jelly — another popular add -in for bubble tea
  • 茉莉奶茶 (mòlì nǎichá) : jasmine bubble tea
  • 木瓜奶茶 (mùguā nǎichá) : papaya flavored bubble tea — a personal favorite
  • 红豆奶茶 (hóngdòu nǎichá) : red bean bubble tea — usually does not have boba

Happy drinking! :)

2am 饺子

Living at Beijing Normal University for two months (and eating out for every meal), we eventually swept through the entire area and ate at every single restaurant. The BNU 食堂 (shitang; dining hall) on campus is extremely cheap and still a good quality food — about 5 kuai for a decent meal. Around the corner from the East Gate, there is a Japanese restaurant where you can present your BNU ID and pay 10 kuai for a “50% off sushi” card. You can also ask the (somewhat scary) fuwuyuan at the front desk for a menu and get your food delivered — I highly recommend 宫保鸡丁(gongbao jiding; kungpao chicken) and 红烧茄子 (hongshao qiezi; soy sauce braised eggplant).

But for those nights when you’re up talking past midnight with your roommate, there’s the “2am jiaozi” place. The restaurant is a sort of a make-shift stand in the streets and doesn’t have a formal name. The restaurant is located at the 北京师范大学 bus stop, or you can go out the East Gate to the right until you hit a crossroad.
They’re open as early 6:30am and have 包子 and 饺子 for breakfast, too. In the daytime, they offer 包子and 饺子 for 4 kuai per plate (each plate has about 6-8 dumplings). They also have noodles — beef, egg & tomato, and 炸酱面 (zhajiangmian; fried sauce noodles) — each for about 6 kuai.

My favorite is 黑天以后 (after dark), when the restaurant switches their menu. I’m not quite sure what they serve other than the three things I’ve ate there: dumplings, beef noodles, and kabobs. The dumplings are made in the corner by the lady in the blue (above). I eventually got to know her very well and called her 阿姨 (a’yi; aunt). The dumplings are not the same as the steamed morning ones; rather, they’re boiled in hot water. Every plate has 20 dumplings, all for just 6 kuai. The stand also has a huge selection of kabobs. Everything from fish balls and cabbage to chicken and octopus. You can pick and choose, then pay by the number of sticks you have sitting on your plate.

On the last night before PiB students headed home, we sat along the side of the road at this restaurant, eating dumplings and questionable kabobs. Some of us from Brown, others were from Princeton, Yale, and Penn – all savoring our last day in China. There was something so familiar and heartwarming about being huddled around that small, plastic table – joking around about Marianne’s Asian boyfriends and laughing at Sean’s sadistic comments about his addiction to video games. Our two months felt complete — holding our 鸡肉串 and laughing loudly as it approached 2am on our last night in Beijing.