Settling In (Finally!)

Carrefour Shopping List: ¥115.oo
Coffee at Paris Baguette: ¥12.00
Doing a crossword puzzle and drinking a café au lait while reflecting on your first successful solo trip around a completely foreign city: Priceless.

🙂 Yes. This was my afternoon, and it was wonderful.

I recently became friends with the 3 girls that are here from UNC Wilmington, and hearing about their experiences here in Beijing has made me realize just how stressful and tiring trying to travel with a group of 15 people can be.  They are enjoying their time so much here that they are considering coming to teach at BRS in the fall for the year, and after talking to them for a while I realized it’s because they are enjoying Beijing just as they would enjoy any new residence… by doing errands, going out to bars, meeting new people, every day stuff like they are used to doing at home.  That sounds like a no-brainer, I know, but all of my time here has been spent on a schedule made by someone else that has included everyone in our group of 14-18 trying to cram in time at So-and-So-Ancient-Chinese-Place and Beautiful-Exotic-Chinese-Garden-Park and other touristy things that are MUST SEES while I’m in this far away place. So, I decided today to enjoy the city as a resident as opposed to a tourist, and it was wonderful.  I even hocked a big, Chinese loogie today on my walk back home. Oh wait. That sounds disgusting. Let’s talk about this first:

Beijing IS disgusting. For example, here’s further explanation for the crotchless pants we’ve been seeing: I saw a small child, while visiting Tiananmen square at the Forbidden City this weekend, stop in the middle of the side walk, squat, and pee.   His parents watched, waited for him to finish, and continued on their walk as if it were a normal thing.  The puddle just spread and people walked through it unknowingly.  It’s also very dusty.  There’s a constant phlegm in peoples’ throats, and we frequently (as in, every few minutes) hear someone coughing, hocking, and spitting on the ground. Even if there is a bush or dirt nearby, it goes in the sidewalk. This afternoon, I saw a man spit in the middle of the floor of the produce aisle at the Carrefour.  And, even when they DO do it outside, it NEVER rains, so none of this nastiness gets washed away.  No wonder I’m sick. (almost better, by the way!)  I know it is a culture thing, but that only makes me aware of the difference, it doesn’t make it any less disgusting for me to observe and tolerate.  Nonetheless, I embraced the culture today and hocked my own into a bush outside of the school.  Ain’t I a good temporary-Beijinger?

Also, I sweat more today than I think I have the entire time I’ve been here, and that’s including my day climbing the Great Wall.  It was on the bus this evening on the way back from my errands.  A full bus will pull up to the station, and these people are so anxious to get on that they CRAM on anyway.  The closest experience I can relate it to is the P2P (the drunk buses that run on the weekend at UNC) during my freshman year.  Take the most crowded P2P you’ve ever been on, add 20 people (no exaggeration) with NO crowd surfing allowed, and you have the bus during evening rush hour.  We have learned how to push our way onto the buses, as well as scurry our way onto the subway to be the first to find seats, so we manage decently well.  Tonight, however, it actually rained here, so it was SUPER humid, and even more crowded because people didn’t want to be in the rain.  As I stood miserably smushed between dozens of Chinese people, with my backpack of groceries worn on my frontside in hopes to have SOME chance at saving any delicate items, while getting groped on all sides of my body, more and more people cramming on the bus with each stop, I heard the distant cry of a baby… and I thought, “WHERE COULD THIS BABY POSSIBLY FIT ON THIS BUS?” Observing my now-crushed backpack with my precious newly-purchased bananas, I wondered if there was a baby somewhere suffering the same fate.  I hope not. I knew coming in to one of the highest-populated cities in a country that is home to 1/6th of the worlds population that there would be no such thing as personal space… but I have no idea how people do this on a daily basis.  Yes, I had a wonderful day experiencing the city by myself, but there are still some things about this place that make it really unlivable for me.

Also, I met one of the elementary music teachers tonight and am schedule to observe his classes this Friday, and potentially teach some next week 🙂 He has also invited me to his English class tomorrow morning that he co-teaches with one of the Chinese teachers.  I’m very excited to see how other subjects and how younger kids are during the school day.  After a stressful, disorganized first week here today was all-around very nice to finally have some clarity on my existence here.

Stay tuned for pictures from my Great Wall hike!

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