Day 13 - Luke’s Birthday

Saturday, February 20th, 2016
Smog Level: 2 Mountains

(Bulletproof?) Glass, Transfer Slots, and Armed Guards
Went to the bank today. I’m pretty much out of cash and still haven’t figured out how to transfer funds this way. This, unfortunately, means I’m leeching off of Shimou. Feels bad, man. But Wait! I still have $100 USD that could be converted to usable cash, so let's, uh.. let's do that.

The Bank of Beijing (my bank) wasn’t the most helpful, saying they weren’t sure if they had the proper equipment to process the cash. I’m not.. really sure what that means. Across the street we go to another bank. This all would have been much, much harder if Shimou hadn’t been so helpful. This bank closed 10 minutes from when we walked in. They advised us of this, but gave us a number anyway.
This seems to be another difference from Canada. Back home, if you show up near closing, they will either turn you away or give you a number - not both. Here.. I guess you get a number, but may still get turned away, which we were. Mind you, they were all very polite and nice in doing so.

It's The Year of the Monkey!
Also, Peaches represent Health and Fortune (first pic)
Today is Jim/Luke/Tony’s Birthday. He’s had several names, but seems to have landed on Luke for the time being. Yeah, he’s the guy who generously put us up in Melbourne for all of August last year. It’ll be him, Shimou, and I for hotpot, as well as two of their friends from high school, Sylvia and XiǎoHēi. XiǎoHēi means “little black,” which he’s called because his skin is darker than theirs.. though still not that dark. Sylvia lived in the US for 6 years while studying Journalism, meaning that her English is superb. Little Black’s English was also quite good, especially given the fact that he’s only lived in China. You’d never know it. He’s a musician, and apparently went to a really famous Music University here.

Ignore the Product Placement
Despite everyone’s ability to speak English, they default to Mandarin. Makes sense, it’s their native tongue. I only catch brief snippets of their conversation. I’m actually for them doing this. If they spoke English, it would be the same as me being back home and my ear for Mandarin wouldn’t improve. The more I hear it in natural conversation, the faster it will come. The words are slowly becoming more distinct, and I’m able to pluck out the word I know with greater accuracy. I think...

Luke's Cake
(Those are Cherries)
The dynamic between the four of them is funny, often seemingly trying to shock one another, or give each other a hard time. An example of this is the cake that Shimou bought for Luke. I’ll leave the picture to speak for itself.

We had hotpot at a fancy restaurant on the top floor of a large, expensive-feeling building. The staff was very gracious, and almost excessively accommodating. It seems like hospitality here is either lackluster or amazing, but few in between.

For Chinese birthdays, they have a long noodle (cháng shòu miàn) that’s supposed to represent the length of their life and good fortune. Shimou said that if her parents aren’t feeling like having sweets on their birthday, they’ll skip the cake and make noodles instead. In this restaurant, they had one of the staff come in and do an elaborate dance with fancy moves, using the noodle like one of those ribbon dancers. If the internet is feeling gracious, I will upload it. And gracious it was:

Boobs are Rainbow Inside
This restaurant wasn’t super expensive, which explains the popularity. It gave away free snacks and drinks to everyone waiting, and seemed like half the restaurant was just for a waiting space. They even had a small play room for children. The room also came with free dragon fruit, oranges, bananas. They went all out, man.

After dinner, we crossed to street to go to one of Shimou’s favorite cafés, Café Benne. The four of us played Golf there until it closed. Little Black and Luke went their way, while Shimou, Sylvia and I grabbed a cab. Sylvia and I talked about writing, as she works at a PR Firm here in China. Apparently she’s writing for Lamborghini. Luxurious. She said she saw all the work she was a writer by trade. She wondered why she wasn’t able to motivate herself to do it for her own projects. As I did when starting this blog, I said to forget about first impressions and simply start putting stuff out there, with which she seemed to agree. It’s difficult, though, when you have other things going on and your life already feels busy enough. I get that. 

But hey, what's more important: investing in your future, or relaxing an extra hour here or there?

Words of the Day:
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
Too (much) - tài [tie]
Very - hěn [Hnn]
meet - Jìan dão [Gee-ann dow]
Ready - zhǔn bèi [Jun bay]
finish (verb) - wǎn chéng [wahn chung]

Editing Music
Hooked on a Feeling
Blue Swede

Left to Right: Xiǎohēi, Silvia, Lukey-Loo, Me, and Shimou

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