Thursday, December 18, 2014

Everyone Should Know These Things About China - Part 2

4. Staring

I couldn’t even try to guess the number of times I get stared at on a daily basis. Whenever you ride the metro as a foreigner, you are bound to be stared at by at least one person. They think they are being so sly and look away if you look at them, but in reality, it’s really obvious since it often comes with their mouth hanging open as if I’m an alien. This look gets better when they find out you can speak Chinese.

I’ve caught some people talking about me, saying “foreigner” or “beautiful woman”. One time, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing after they started talking about how my face is so thin and my eyes are so big, and then they realized I could understand them. They were shocked that I was reading a book in English on my phone. Shortly after gaining the confidence to try and say the English they knew, they said “You are beautiful” and then “How are you?” Those were the only two phrases they knew. Ha it surely made my day.

Now my roommates are both black and have told me countless of stories about their experiences. One of them doesn’t have much Chinese language background, but she’s quickly learned the word for hair because everyone talks about her hair. The other one gets free fruit at the same fruit stand I go to (but I never get free fruit…).

Although this is normally not the case because they think that foreigners have more money, especially American so they try to charge us more. Be careful when going to a restaurant, sometimes the English menu has higher prices than the Chinese menu.

But going back to staring, it’s inevitable if you are a foreigner in Beijing no matter how long you have lived there. I've just learned to smile at them, most of the time it gets them to stop staring.

5. Dating

The dating scene here is very prevalent, but it is not the same as the United States. It is important for couples to settle down and have a child before the age of 30. If they haven't, then they have a huge pressure from their parents to do so.

The guy to girl ratio is off because of the culture wanting to have a boy rather than a girl. With that being said, the man take care of their woman very well. One example is by having the man carry her bag no matter what the size of the bag is. So many guys do this that to me it looks like it's the guy’s purse!

The end goal for these couples is to have a child together. To my knowledge, there really isn’t much divorce here. They do everything they can for this child. After they get married, the woman will typically move in with the man’s family, which then creates instant babysitters of the man’s parents!

Every day, I see grandparents hanging out outside with their grandkids and the neighbors grandkids just to have some outdoor time with them. Each hour it seems like there is a different age group of kids congregated out there.

6. Slums & Skyscrapers

The layout of the city seems really planned out, but when walking around there isn't really a "ghetto" or an area of slums. The slums just get mixed in with the skyscrapers. For example, right next to our apartment building, you can see an alley of traditional run-down Chinese houses where people still live.

I have started being accustomed to seeing so many tall buildings since I have a pretty awesome view outside my apartment, but at the same time, I have gotten used to seeing just as many nice cars. Whether it is Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, etc. I see them driving around my area each and every day.

At the same time, I see people begging for money on the metro, outside the metro, on bridges, anywhere basically. There is one man that has made the walking bridge his home even in the winter. It’s tough to see each and every day but I don’t have the means to help him out more than just some spare change or a nice warm cup of hot chocolate.

I know that this type of socioeconomic spread happens everywhere, but I just wish that people would share their wealth more. With Christmas coming up and all the gifting people are doing, it makes me realize how I don’t care about these material things. All the nice cars and brand name products like hand bags, cosmetics and clothes could never make me happy. All I want for Christmas is to continue exploring. I love seeing how others live their lives and hopefully positively influence others to cherish the little things.

With that being said, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season! If you are fortunate enough to be with your family, loved ones or friends, cherish those moments as not everyone can experience that.

Wrapping these last two posts up, I just want you all to know that every day in China something crazy happens to me, but you cannot describe the Chinese experience better than the author did at the end. "Stories of ricksaw drivers, of baijiu, of tonal mishaps, of being ripped off, of babies defecating on the street, of those euphoric moments where living in China for this brief period was worth it. You won't regret it."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Everyone Should Know These Things About China - Part 1

After reading an article about everyone needing to live in China, I realized there was a lot to be said about it. I feel as though the article makes a great impression and is well-written, but I have different opinions on a few of the points as well as personal stories to prove the points. Here is the article if you would like to read it first.

China is a wonderful place to live, despite the pollution and various cultural annoyances you may experience often. I don’t think it is necessary for everyone to come here, but if you choose to come, there will be things that hit you right on your head & make you think “Wow. Did that just happen?” or “This is unreal.” Things you take for granted back in your comfortable life at home are singled out and make you realize how different life is in other areas of the world. 

1. The Number of People

I have been to New York, but nothing can compare to the feeling of being pushed onto a subway train by other people and then having nothing to hold onto but just swaying with everyone around you. Rush hour is absolutely insane here. But hey, just like these dogs, everyone gets to where they are wanting to go eventually!

I value the mornings that I wake up early and notice the few amount of people who do the same thing. The elderly who are making lines outside the bank before it opens or exercising in the parks in various manners. The workers who are stiff and silent all in a line being talked to by their boss. The security guards who are trying their hardest to not fall asleep after a long night shift. 

Being alone physically is something that is hard to come by especially in public, but feeling alone is not hard to do at all. Everyone else has their family to go home to. In spite of the strong individualistic mindset that shines through as everyone is fighting their way through the subway, collectivism prevails when it comes to family & their country. They would do anything for China and their family and never say a bad word about either one. 

For me, not being able to fluently converse with all the random people I practice my Chinese with makes me feel as though people can’t understand my opinions fully which then makes a barrier between us. No matter how many conversations I have in one day, it never seems enough to make me feel that I belong here. I will always be in the category of being a foreigner.

Or when you cut your finger with a knife and freak out because blood is gushing from your body. You realize you have no idea where a hospital is, nor could you even communicate with the doctor about your issues, and so you call your mom who can fix everything. Right? She’s only 7000 miles away, and I’m sure she can talk me through how to treat a cut without going to the hospital. 

It’s moments like these that create the feeling of being alone in a city full of 20 million people.

2. 语言 - The Language

So it’s a well-known fact that Chinese is a difficult language, and I definitely am not fluent by any mean. Yes, I can get the gist of conversations, but when it comes to talking about a topic which I don’t know the vocabulary for, a lot of gesturing is used to portray the meaning. Luckily, I know the word for bathroom so I don’t have to act that one out ever!

It doesn’t matter where you are; the world is becoming more and more technology focused. Every time I look around on the subway, over 70% of the people are using some sort of electronic device. The people who aren’t are either elderly or with a child. It’s kind of a sad realization that people are more obsessed with technology than making conversation with the people right next to you.

Going back to the collectivism and family oriented, grandparents are in charge of taking care of the child so the parents are able to continue working. This means they all live in one apartment – something that almost seems unbearable in our culture. Daycares or childcare don't exist to the extent they do back in the United States. This then takes away the chance for children to learn social skills at such a young age with other people who are similar to them.

Something funny that I just don’t understand is that people think it is necessary to shout on the phone when they’re on the subway or anywhere in public. One time, there was a lady across from me who was practically shouting into her phone in a Chinese dialect. I was with my friend who is fluent in Chinese, and she could not understand anything she was saying. One of the other struggles of learning Chinese – the many dialects.

My favorite thing when it comes to the language is the look on their faces when they realize that I can speak Chinese. As that look is fading, they are bound to then say how good your language skills are which Americans would automatically say, “Thank you” however, if you are truly trying to be Chinese and take in all of the culture, you should be much more modest and say something to the extent of “Now, now, it is not that great!”  Then, you can proceed to have a little argument on how great your language skills are.

3. The Traffic

After getting a bike, I have started to understand how traffic works here. If you want to cross the road, you just go for it. As long as you don’t run into the car/bike in front of you, you’re following the laws and doing it right. Besides following speed limit and stop light rules, I haven’t noticed many other official ones.

There was one time I was waiting to cross a fairly busy street. After 5 minutes, I saw a brave biker next to me, just go for it, literally stopping the traffic just to cross the road. Sometimes, there isn’t a way around this. Same goes for walking, which is a little easier. You cross one lane, then wait between the lanes until the next one is semi-free.

Having a horn or a bell is so important! If you hear a honk, don’t think that someone is saying “Hello” or “What were you thinking?!” It’s more of “Hey, I’m right here” or “I’m passing you so watch out.” If you are not aggressive and proactive about your driving, you will not get anywhere.

Their ability to navigate their cars without hitting anything is astonishing to me. They truly know their car's size and how to park it in the tiniest of places. I oftentimes catch myself staring at the cars trying to park while someone tells them how close they are or when huge buses try to squeeze through the numerous anxious taxis and make it through with an inch to spare. They make it look so easy.

If an accident does occur though, don't be surprised if police don't end up coming and instead money is just exchanged in order to call it even. I actually saw this happen yesterday!

Moral of the story when it comes to traffic – just go for it!


That's only half of the story - the rest will come in the next post! There's just so much to say about this!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Memorable Events

Ironically enough, I lost my metro card after posting a blog on metros. It was a very sad day for me because I also lost a necklace that my mom gave to me right before I left which was my grandma’s. Thankfully, I was able to retrace my steps and found the necklace at the restaurant where we ate that day. The waiter had noticed it and kept it in his pocket because he didn’t want to damage it or lose it. My eyes lit up in happiness when I saw it appear from his pocket.

After living abroad with not much, I have come to realize that life isn’t about things. Yeah they can make people happy, and they mean so much more if they are gifts or are handed down from people. Overall though, I am living with the basics and honestly don’t need anything else.

I enjoy looking back at pictures. It helps me relive the fun times that I had, and it also get me excited for the future to create more memorable moments. So this last week, I figured out how to print pictures in China, and I am now in the process of making a photo wall in my room. It’s these little things that make me happy.

This last week, I had two really memorable events happen. The first was archery! It was a teacher event meaning it was completely free, and you get to meet others from the same company. I had a blast! The highlight of the night though was completely unexpected. Turning around from shooting an arrow, I make eye contact with a girl who starts to say “No way!” the same time that I do. She turns out to be a friend from my college who I knew lived in Beijing, but I just had not seen her yet. She tells me that she is there every single day. I just cannot believe that in a city so big, I manage to run into a friend from a school that is so small!

The other event was a school event for team bonding. We went to dinner at a delicious restaurant where the waiters dress up in traditional clothing (same place I lost my necklace). Of course it was a hot pot restaurant which is one of my favorites! After that, we went to KTV which is one of the most common entertainment sources in China. It’s basically karaoke, but you get your own room with just your friends and can order drinks or food to come to your room. It was fun singing both English and Chinese songs. For sure, a night that I won’t forget.

I just posted more pictures on facebook so check them out!

Next post, keep an eye out for me to talk a little bit about holidays here in China (Halloween, Singles Day, and Thanksgiving)! Until next time!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Public Transportation - Subway 地铁 (ditie)

After posting the last one, I realized there is more to the APEC meeting especially when it comes to traveling. I have noticed security tighten so much when I take the metro now. Thankfully some if it is very beneficial but others seem a little bothersome.

At the metro stop by my house, they added a metal barrier so that traffic flow is more efficient which is so nice! Now I don’t have to force myself through people just to put my bag on the conveyor belt to be scanned. It’s more orderly.

Today, they added the boxes/trays that you would use at airport security to put bags or small items in. My purse was small, but they didn’t make me put it in one. I don’t get it yet. We shall see what happens in the future. Anyhow, there were two people assigned to this job; one person puts the boxes in the beginning of the belt and receiving the other empty boxes from the other person at the end of it. Talk about a thrilling job.

On my way home at 9:45 pm, I noticed they added another pretty strict lady who would only let a few people go past and stopped the rest until it was clear. Never seen it that controlled before.

I’ve heard from other people who have been to China that they think Chinese people are rude, especially on metros. So here’s my explanation.

People push others just to get on or off the train without apologizing of even thinking of apologizing. That’s just what they’re used to, and I’m starting to become accustomed to it too.

They also rush to get a seat; however, they do still have the common courtesy to let elderly, children and injured sit down first. But when a seat opens up, they have a little argument with their friend over who is going to sit for about 2 minutes – sit! No, you sit! No really, you sit! I don’t need to sit! Please sit! Okay, I guess I will sit if you won’t sit. - I laugh at it every single time.

Another funny thing is how many people run to the stairs when they get out of the train. Often times there are so many people trying to get into a narrow staircase, and it is guaranteed to be packed. To avoid this, they just try and be the first ones there.

Cutting lines is also pretty common. When approaching the counter to add money on your metro card, sometimes it is necessary to make sure you get your turn because others will often mindlessly cut in front of you if you are not assertive. This is common many places, but younger generations are aware of this issue and are trying to slowly change it.

Sometimes I just have to stop and remind myself of TIC - This is China.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sickness & Pollution

After being sick last week, I now have a manly voice which is on its way to being no voice. When I was sick, coworkers didn’t really notice because the worst of it was on my weekend – thank god – but now they are noticing. We have a cleaning staff that consist of several women and 2 men all in their 50s or 60s. In Chinese, we call them aunt and uncle. Since I sound so awful, they are all giving me advice on how to get better. The last three days I have been constantly scolded “Drink more warm water!” “Wear more clothing! You look cold!” “Have you taken medicine? You really need to go see the doctor!” It’s nice that they are concerned. One of them even gave me medicine, but the reality is that I feel fine, just sound bad.

Even if I wasn’t sick, they still would tell me to wear more clothing and drink more warm water. The common greeting here isn’t “How are you?” It’s “Have you eaten yet?” That does not mean it is an invite to have food with them. That’s just their way of showing concern towards their friends to make sure they are fed. They don’t actually care what you ate, just that you did. This is something I’ve been struggling with but after thinking about it, how many times a day do you get asked “How are you?” or “What’s up?” and the person could care less what your response was.

Another weird thing going on is the APEC meeting. China has made some changes to the normal routine that I’ve noticed. The first thing was our work schedule has changed. I always work weekends but now we have two “weekends” right next to each other. This means Saturday & Sunday are a normal weekend schedule but now Monday & Tuesday are also weekend schedules. Don’t ask me why because I have no idea. So our classes got all changed around and half of them are cancelled because their parents said they won’t be coming to class.

The second thing was advertisements. There was a TV ad that I saw about cleaning up the country, driving less and anything else you can think of to make China look better. To me, this is something that should be played every day to make the world “greener,” but here it’s just for the time that there is big meeting.

Another change goes off of making the country cleaner and having less cars on the road. There are rules as to which cars can drive at which times because there are just too many cars here. They go off of license plates and make the rules like if your license plate number ends in 9 then you can drive on Mondays. If you drive on other days then you will be fined. I don't know the exact rules, but you can get the idea. Well because of this meeting, they want less cars so the rules are stricter which then affects delivery trucks. We are expecting things at our office, but they are delayed because they can’t get here due to these rules!

Finally, the days leading up to this meeting were pretty polluted. I never knew why, but after reading articles online today, I found out why. They run factories harder before holidays or important meetings like this so that way they can stop production for the days they want the skies to be clear. I cannot imagine how many factories there are to make this much of a difference, but hey it worked because the past 3 days have been so clear! All for an APEC meeting…

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Little Rascals of China

Now that I’m back home from a trip to the United States – how weird does that sound?! – I figured it was time to talk about some more differences in the USA and China. Although I don’t have any pictures ready for this post, I promise it will be just as entertaining & informative. I mean it's about the Little Rascals of China, how could it not be?!

This morning, I was riding the metro to work while reading a book that I borrowed from work. Now this book is a graphic novel (The Lightning Theif) and believe it or not but it came in handy to help a crying toddler. Her grandmother just couldn’t get her to be happy. Fruit wasn’t working. Neither were the short but I’m assuming funny phrases she kept trying to tell her. So she says “Look at her book!” and I can understand this much. Knowing they are looking at the cover of the book, I turn it around and let this Chinese toddler flip through this English book. Nonetheless, the grandma wasn’t able to understand any of the words, but it helped entertain the child with all of the pictures and color. Who would have thought it would benefit me bringing a graphic novel with me on the metro? I thought it would just make me look much younger than I am.

Going off of babies, most of them here wear these pants that have slits in their crotches in order for easy access when they have to go to the bathroom. Yes, literally whenever. I have seen kids being held up so they can pee in a trashcan, and kids pooping on a piece of paper – if the parent is prepared - on the sidewalk. It’s almost normal to me now. It’s just a different way of life. I mean it really would save a lot on waste if you think about it, and it allows kids to be potty trained earlier on in life. One of my friends says she sees many parents with pee or poop stains on them since they have to carry their kids, but I have yet to see that. I’m still looking though.

After teaching Chinese children, I have noticed that they also like drinking hot water a lot. The little ones are always asking their parents in the first class to drink water, and you know when one asks, they all want some. When they get sick, the need for water exponentially increases as well! I think they view it as a health-saver almost. I’m not quite sure, but it’s a common solution for anything. Stomach is upset, drink water! Headache, drink water! Feeling cold, drink water!

Living in China definitely has its ups and downs but after this week, I think it is starting to feel more and more like home. I was able to organize my room to my liking by setting up a workout area of my room and got more groceries to stock up my pantry. Now to just find a winter coat since each day is getting colder and colder!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy 65th Birthday, China!

I apologize for not posting more, but I’m finally getting into the flow of having a full-time job. I’ve been here now in China for 2 months now and couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

In a week though, I will be back in the USA for a quick trip to see my best friend get married. I cannot wait to be there for her and see my friends and family. Thankfully, everything is working out for this trip. As I mentally prepare to go back, I’m thinking about things that I am excited about or things that I miss, and honestly, I really only miss the people. I’ve become less materialistic because of the fact that I only took one large suitcase here and realized that is really all I need to be happy, even in China.

Many people always view China to be so different, but in reality, it isn’t. There are some major things that stick out like using a VPN to access certain websites like Facebook, Google and now Instagram or simply the comfort of your own culture in regards to food, traditions or language. Overall though, there are people, buildings, streets, cars, buses, malls, etc. just like everywhere else. Thanks to technology it makes the distance seem much smaller than it actually is.

I’ve gotten used to my life here and love most aspects of it. You can find the food that you are used to and people who are from your country. You can take part in activities you enjoy and explore so many places. That’s what is so great about living in a city of this size. Anything is possible.

I have found a decent burger joint, Mexican restaurant and pizza place all just 15 minutes away from my apartment. Of course, I do love eating Chinese food, but I will never give up my love for variety or even my love for exploring new places.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing on my off days. Whether I have a game plan or not, I will always take my new bike and go find some place that I have never been to before. Since I’ve seen most of the touristy areas from previous travel, I’m checking out more of my neighborhood or surrounding areas nearby. It’s really nice feeding my love of exploring each and every week.

Happy Birthday, China! Thanks for these 3 consecutive days off, plus the two other random days. Holidays in China, that's a whole other topic to discuss. In the meantime, check out Facebook as I have just updated all of my photos so they are up to date and have captions!