Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, August 18, 2008

I met Alice on the street last week. She invited me to the pre-opening party last Friday night at the new Bridge Cafe, so I took Jordan with me, and enjoyed some good food, and a little glass of champagne. Nell gave me a few pictures she had taken at the party. Here I am having a discussion about Chinese history with a Malaysian Chinese, and a young lady from Norway--both students at Peking University.

There are approximately 12,000 foreign students in the University district, the majority of them right in this neighborhood, because BLCU (Beijing Language and Culture University), Qinghua and Beida are all within a stone's throw of Wudaokou.The expat community seems to be growing, mainly, I think, because the value of Mandarin language proficiency is increasing in European countries, but also because countries like Norway (according to the young lady) pay a pretty good stipend to young university students who want to go to China and study Chinese.

But I should emphasize that there are basically three elements to the expat community in Wudaokou. In addition to the foreign students I mentioned, there are also English teachers, and kids who come to just hang out. The kids who just come to hang out have been cleaned out for the Olympics, because they usually come on fake visas they bought in Hong Kong, and the Chinese government has really tightened up on F visas.I have heard that some English teachers have also been told to leave the country for the summer. The way China does that is to refuse to renew their visas for the fall. That does the trick, but it could backfire, because it means that the Universities will have to scramble to find English teachers after the Olympics are over.

You may have noticed that I didn't mentioned business people. That's because the business community has generally been over in the CBC (Central Business District) on the east side. But that is changing a bit, because of the Qinghua Science Park. Google and Microsoft both have big contingents here in Wudaokou, and I would expect more to be coming. So a new coffee bar in the area is welcome, especially if it has good wireless connectivity and good food.

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