We went up to Simatai by rail, riding in a truly ancient train car through the Chinese countryside. I slept through most of the ride——I'd spent the night before learning Chinese dice games, and I'd got up at 5 to catch the train——but I was awake long enough to see some incredible views of the great wall from the train.
We next visited Sujiayu Village, where we spent a while pretending we could understand the accents of a few old men we tried to interview. Even an hour out of Beijing, you can hear local accents even our teacher couldn't understand. I did understand the man who kept offering me youtiao (a sort of oily and unsweetened flaccid churro) until I accepted; and I understood the three girls who fled behind a grindstone shouting "Foreigner!" when I came to their part of the village. I stuck around, and they got used to me enough to let me take their picture.
...and much to the entertainment of the villagers, sent his American guests out to fetch water.
When I came back to the city, I went to a Yale Club event, where I discovered just how many Yalies are in the city right now, and picked up some free tickets from a promoter of the Yale Philharmonia. Absolutely anything can happen in Beijing--and in just 20 days, things are going to really get started.