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UIBE Week 1

Beijing Travel Blog

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The Lama Temple

It took 30 minutes to get to UIBE (University of International Business and Economics) from the centre of the city, which was not as bad as expected.  But it took a further 15 minutes to find the meeting point on campus as all the signs at this so called international university were in Chinese and typically I had not been given any directions by the company organising the programme.

After eventually finding the campus cafe, thanks to my driver asking someone once he’d finally understood my sign language, I joined Simon, who I’d met on the Trans Sib, and some other randoms on the programme and got checked in by a girl called Fi.  I was shown to my apartment by a polish guy called Shamek.  I would be sharing with two other girls - Inga from Germany and Shangin from Sweden, but of Hong Kong parentage.

The Lama Temple
Both of them had arrived before me, but were not in the apartment when I arrived, so I just selected the last remaining bed and got myself settled in.  I would be spending the next month sleeping in a shared room with Shangin with our beds less than a metre apart - I was just keeping my fingers crossed she wasn’t someone that snored!

I then went to meet a small group of recruits at the cafe at 2pm for a campus tour. I stuck with Simon as he was the only familiar face at this point.

The tour was completely useless. The 2 guys showing us around seemed to have no idea what they were doing.  Every time someone asked a question, they didn’t know the answer.  It would have been more useful to give everyone a map with the key places marked on it for us to ‘discover’ by ourselves, because despite being walked around, I still felt as disorientated as when I arrived.

The main section of the temple
  A complaint shared by pretty much everyone I later discovered.

The tour was over by 3.30pm and I was then left with nothing to do in the evening.  Having briefly met my new housemates for the next month, who seemed nice, I got in touch with Smurf, who wasn’t due to leave for the airport until 9pm.  The free evening presented a good unexpected opportunity for me to head back to the hotel to meet Smurf for an early dinner.  He dropped me back at the university on his way to the airport and I got an early night.

The next day I got up and had a lazy morning.  Shangin took me to the campus canteen to show me how I was to go about ordering lunch, which required a bit of guess work.

Buddha at the Lama Temple
 It was pretty difficult to decipher what each dish was, which became no clearer when tasting my chosen meal. I also discovered over the next few days that most of the hot dishes were only ever served luke warm, and the only edible dish was the fried rice, which became my staple lunch throughout the 4 weeks at UIBE.

At 2.30pm, the entire group (all 104 of us) met at the cafe to head to the badminton courts for team building!!  This, as I imagined, turned out to be my idea of hell - the ultimate of which, was when we had to sit in rows and pretend to be on a rollercoaster.  It was quite possibly THE worst team building session I’ve experience - bring back the BBC bean bags PLEAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSEEE!

This was definitely not what I signed up for, and at this point I was just wishing for the training to start.

A little boy drawing the temple
  I was grateful when the clock finally struck 5pm and we were able to go back to the apartment to get ready for the welcome dinner, which took place at a local restaurant.

I sat on a table with Inga and some other Germans, a guy called Ben from the US and a Danish lady.  I didn’t really bond with any of them despite glugging back vast quantities of alcohol.  The meal seemed to continue forever - the waitresses just kept bringing more and more food until I was sick of the sight of it.  A combination of Chinese red wine, which is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted, rice wine and beer only served to increase the feeling and so I looked for the most convenient time to bolt.

My escape was slightly hindered by the monsoon taking place outside but eventually the rain subsided enough for me to make a sharp exit around 10pm.

The Lion statue at the Temple

For the first time in my life I was actually quite smug I did leave so early as most people stayed until 2-3am and, despite their youth, felt pretty shabby the next day......Actually, I can’t believe I’ve just said that - there’s definitely something wrong with me!!!  The thought of a hangover has NEVER been known to stop me before.

The next day brought more joyous team building - hoorah!  Fortunately the torture only lasted a couple of hours and then we had the rest of the day free.  Simon and I decided to head to the Lama Temple.

This place is definitely worth a visit if in Beijing.

Prayer time
  It’s really beautiful and peaceful.  The rain from the night before had managed to decrease the humidity, which made walking around much more pleasant.  Simon and I spent a couple of hours there, which gave us an opportunity to get to know each other a bit better.  I expect I’ll be spending quite a bit of time with him, given we’re both going to be based in Beijing, so pretty pleased he seems like a good guy.

Class started at 8.50am the following morning.  I’m in a class with 25 others from the UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the USA and Czech Republic - Simon and I are clearly the eldest in the class.  Most of the students look like they’ve just finished school so really doubting at this stage that I’ll have anything in common with them.

The Temple's entry into the Guinness Book of Records
  The teacher is an Aussie called Doc.  First impressions of Doc...Well he’s clearly marginally eccentric, or likes to think he is. He wears trousers that are too short, which is a pet hate of mine, with braces (another pet hate) - think Charlie Chaplin - and terribly over-designed black trainers, lots of ear piercings and a tought of hair below his lower lip that irritatingly flicks up and down when he talks.

Having introduced himself and given us a few care-taking notes on conduct, the lesson began.....

The day consisted of 4 classes - 1 on classroom management, 2 on vocabulary and my first Mandarin class, which was interesting. Learning Chinese is not going to be easy!  I felt like I had no clue what was going all day - I’m just assuming things will become clearer as time goes on.

Simon and I at KTV

 Simon and I headed into town that evening to go for a drink with some other people from the Trans-Sib trip.  We went to a great little bar in one of the Hutongs, near Houhai Lake.  The street was really atmospheric and buzzing with life.  Will definitely be heading back here!

Day 2 of lessons was marginally better than yesterday.  I stupidly didn’t bring a dictionary with me from the UK, which is a pretty useful resource when teaching English as a foreign language!  That evening I headed to Wanfujing to the foreign language bookstore to get equipped and grabbed a cheeky McDonalds whilst I was there too.  The UIBE canteen must have really got to me, because I haven’t had a Mackie D’s for a fair few years.

Inga and Josie at KTV

The following day we were given our first assignment.  I guess this is the start of me getting used to having homework again.... On first sight it didn’t look too gruelling, and at least the contents of the course was started to make sense to me now, so I figured I shouldn’t have too much trouble with it.

That evening the programme leader, Solaro, organised a group trip to KTV - karaoke to you and me.  It was a really fun night, and as you can imagine right up my street!  There are quite a few extraverts on the course, surprise surprise, so no shortage of people wanting to sing.  Simon and I decided we’d sing Hey Jude together, but by the time our turn came around, virtually everyone was hammered and some Danes had started hijacking the karaoke machine, which led to the entire room screeching a rendition of Bitter Sweet Symphony instead.

Still attempting to sing Hey Jude!
  Not a problem, because I’m sure there’ll be plenty more opportunities to get my karaoke fix.

Our coach then dropped us at a bar called Liberty, otherwise known as the 30 Yuan bar, near the university campus.  You pay ¥30 (£2) to get in and all the drinks are free - pretty lethal!  I managed to get my first Beijing boogie and made good in-roads sampling the cocktail list!

Clearly not feeling my best the following day but had to be up for 7.30am to go on a tour with the group.  I managed to sleep through 3 alarms, so was grateful when Shangin finally woke me up at 7.20am!

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The Lama Temple
The Lama Temple
The Lama Temple
The Lama Temple
The main section of the temple
The main section of the temple
Buddha at the Lama Temple
Buddha at the Lama Temple
A little boy drawing the temple
A little boy drawing the temple
The Lion statue at the Temple
The Lion statue at the Temple
Prayer time
Prayer time
The Temples entry into the Guinne…
The Temple's entry into the Guinn…
Simon and I at KTV
Simon and I at KTV
Inga and Josie at KTV
Inga and Josie at KTV
Still attempting to sing Hey Jude!
Still attempting to sing Hey Jude!
The Lama Temple
The Lama Temple
The main section of the temple
The main section of the temple
The Lame Temple
The Lame Temple
Attempting to sing Hey Jude!
Attempting to sing Hey Jude!
Beijing
photo by: Deats