This post is not about any place in particular but about my life in China. You would never know what this country is like – even if you read about it, see videos and photos – until you see it live. Previous to my departure I read about China and its culture, watched numerous videos, read blogs, and talked to friends that have lived here before. But it was not until I moved to Beijing that I experience the REAL China. I have yet to experience a real ‘cultural exchange’ living with a host Chinese family. At the moment I stay at the school dorms, but I am really hoping to have this experience once.
It takes time to get used to a new place. This isn’t my first abroad experience but it is definitely the hardest one to adapt to. With only two months and a half of moving to Beijing, I’ve seen a lot that I like and much more that I just can’t do anything about it. It is definitely a whole different world!
Some of the biggest things that I’ve had a hard time to adapt to have been:
-The language. Yes, I am studying Chinese, but sometimes I wish I could say something more than a simple answer. Order a meal using words and not pointing to the pictures, talk to the taxi driver about anything, ask any random person how to get somewhere, tell the hairdresser how I want my haircut. And not rely on my chinese friends for help.
-The air quality in Beijing. Besides the fact that the winters are really cold compared to my hometown, the air quality really doesn’t help. I can count the number of clear-sky days since I’ve been here, all I see is a gray cloud. The first thing I would do in the mornings was to look at the sky from my dorm hoping that day would have a nice clear sky. Seeing the sun would make me smile but that only happened a couple of times. I just simply gave up! Also, the air is really dry, so a humidifier was a must otherwise I would wake up with dried throat.
-School dorms. A lot of people complain about it for many reasons and I did too at the beginning. The hot water runs only 3 times a day, 7-9am, 3-5pm, 8-12am. The walls are so thin that I can literally hear my neighbor when he’s skyping. I sleep on a 5 cm-thick mattress on a wood board and my bathroom has the shower and toilet together. But living on campus is so convenient, my classroom is just 5 minutes away.
-Public toilets? I’ll rather wait until I get home (my dorm). Chinese locals use this type of toilets, I call it a squatty-potty. The problem with public toilets is not the type of toilet but the conditions they’re in. It is hard to find clean toilets, even at nice restaurants.
-Canteen food. This might be something I will never get used to, and not because the food might be very salty, spicy or greasy but because my stomach sometimes just can’t take it. I never know when I have to run to the bathroom. Unfortunately, there is no other option when I don’t have a kitchen. A meal at the canteen costs about 6 RMB, which is almost the equivalent to $1, and it includes rice and two types of dishes. There are numerous canteens on campus, and they are all different. It was hard to find one that has good food. My favorite one is the ‘10,000’ they have good noodle soup and jiao zi. Also, Taoli has good noodles with meat, the flavor reminds me of Chinese food from the States.
Living here really makes me appreciate what I had back home; good food, a nice mattress, a clean house, nice weather, beautiful clear skies… My list can go on and on. I do enjoy my time in Beijing, and make the most out of it. I try not to pay attention to the things that bother me. Instead, I think about my purpose here in China and the future ahead of me.