This year I had the wonderful experience of turning twenty years old in Beijing! I’ll admit at the beginning of our program I was nervous about whether or not I would be able to do anything for my birthday. I was afraid school would be too overwhelming and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to go with some friends. Fortunately, that was not the case at all. I had an amazing time celebrating my birthday in China with my friends from the program.
It all began the Saturday night before my actual birthday. The entire group was down for celebrating with me in a fancy area of Beijing called San Litun. It is about a 45 minute cab ride from Tsinghua Dongbei Gate and an even longer subway ride. We began our night at an Italian-Mexican fusion restaurant called Luga’s Villa. Afterwards, we walked around San Litun a little bit until we found a nice bar to hang out in. This bar had a relaxed atmosphere, cool drinks, and it played remixes of popular songs that we sang along to. I would say the relaxed atmosphere of this particular bar is reflective of the overall atmosphere of San Litun. A lot of people hanging out enjoying each other’s company over a drink or two is what San Litun is all about. After hanging out in this bar for a bit, we all decided we were ready to dance.
We walked to the Worker’s Stadium then into a club called Latte. The best part about Latte was hands down no cover charge. Most clubs in San Litun have cover charges ranging from 50-100 RMB. Latte was very crowded, but the group managed to make it up onto a stage for some serious dancing. The music was mostly techno with a few top 40s thrown in. It was the type of music that promotes fist pumping and makes you wait anxiously for the beat to drop.
Going out in San Litun definitely satisfied my yearning to go out for my birthday. It was a lot of fun and I was extremely grateful to everyone who came out to celebrate with me. The reason I decided to go all out in San Litun is because the day of my actual birthday was the day we arrived back in Beijing after a weekend excursion in Inner Mongolia. The first moments of my twentieth birthday were spent on the overnight train coming back from Hohhot. At exactly midnight, a group of my friends quietly sang happy birthday to me in my pitch black cubicle on the train. The rest of the day was blur since all of us were exhausted, badly needing a shower, and worn out. On top of that we had two classes and study hall that day.
The most memorable part of my birthday is also one of my favorite moments from my experience in China. We had the same tour guide for Inner Mongolia as a previous weekend excursion to Shanxi Province. His name was Ma Dao and he was absolutely wonderful to us. He fully embodied his job as a tour guide by leading us with a doll tiger attached to a metal stick. In Shanxi Province, I told him I really liked his doll tiger; he responded by letting me hold the stick with the tiger for the rest of the trip. The day before my birthday I told him that was birthday was the next day. He seemed very excited by this and promised to buy me a present. He asked for my phone number and told me he’d call once the gift was ready. The next day after classes ended, I was heading back to my dorm when I got a phone call from Ma Dao. He said he dropped off my gift with of my friends and he was leaving soon for work. I hurried back to the dorm and found my friend with the gift. Inside an intricately wrapped box was one of the most beautiful bracelets I have ever seen. The letter inside explained that this kind of bracelet is unique to Beijing and made from real stones. I was flattered and grateful beyond words at Ma Dao’s generosity and friendliness. This man who I did not know very well had given me such a moving gift. I think Ma Dao’s gift is reflective of the caring nature of Chinese culture. Even though Ma Dao and I had just met, he treated me with the same kindness and generosity he would with an old friend. It was one of the best birthday presents I could have asked for.