Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

Beijing, China: Week 8, Part 2 (The Bigness)

On the day that I arrived in Beijing, the sky was clear blue, sharp sunshine shearing the air. I thought, “Goodness, they really have cleaned it up since the Olympics.” I didn’t know it yet, but that was just a particularly good day.

My taxi took me to the apartment complex, where Andrew Wang’s grandmother met me, showed me around the apartment, and took me to eat noodles. She showed me the bus stop, and where I could buy sundries from the downstairs shop. Then she told me to take a nap and rest. Instead I showered off my travel stench, and went exploring.

The view from my apartment, which is on the 14th floor of a building in the Haidian district.

Beijing is BIG. You can walk for hours and only get to the tiniest part of the Beijing map. Which I proceeded to do. I got on the subway though, finally, and headed to the Sanlitun area. Oddly enough, I continue to experience culture shock in moving from Hunchun to Beijing. Sanlitun is full of beautiful people, draped in expensive clothing and jewels. Forget the plastic sandals that we were all wearing around Hunchun – here it’s all about decorating your feet. There’s more westerners in Sanlitun than probably all of Jilin province. There’s numerous Starbuck’s (whereas in Hunchun I couldn’t even find drip coffee) and every designer brand you could wish for.

I went to the Bookworm, an English language bookstore with free Wifi. I bought a new journal as mine is running out of pages, and a book by Jonathan Spence called “Return to Dragon Mountain.” It cost me as much as a week of food in Hunchun. Did I mention I was culture shocked?

Anyway, I was more comfortable back by my apartment. Ate a popsicle as I walked down the XueYuan Road (School Road) – which is lined with some of Beijing’s best universities. This whole apartment has a living area and two bedrooms, plus a kitchen and full bathroom. Andrew’s mother found it for me. It just happens that the two students who usually live here have gone home for the next two months, and so I am welcome to stay in the living area on the futon. It was an amazing find, and I owe Andrew’s family big time for it – usually around here prices are upwards of 2000rmb, not to mention an agent fee of 1000rmb. And nobody wants to rent to short-term clients, which leaves people like me in really expensive homestays or hotel-like situations.

The best part is that I’m not working and living in the same place. I don’t always need segmentation of place and function. But here, the first morning step I take is also the first step of the day’s adventure.
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