First impressions are very important and we rarely get to make second ones. Our first impressions of a place or people are usually correct, listening to our gut can keep us out of a lot of trouble. At least thats what I’ve learnt, the hard way. Here’s what I got up to in the first 36 hours in Beijing.
After travelling for a total of thirty eight hours of what was supposed to be a twenty hour journey (i’ll leave that story for another time), I was met by two friendly and helpful native Chinese faces to welcome me as I walked out of arrivals. Someone being helpful and taking me all the way to my apartment, in a private car no less, was much appreciated. It was two am as we started the forty minute journey to my temporary apartment near Beijing Foreign Studies University (BeiWai) where I am to complete my training.
Feeling guilty allowing a perfect stranger drag my 30kg suitcase up six flights of stairs, I apologised profusely and thanked them both for meeting me and taking me home. Usually I’m the perfect hostess, and not having any thing to offer them sent me in a panic. Panic turned into gratitude when I was handed a goody bag of noodles, Oreos, bread, nuts, Ritz and water. I arrived here in the dark, and had no idea where I was. The prospect of going out the next day not knowing anything, wasn’t a comforting thought. I was told the next day i’d be left alone to rest up and Sunday i’d be taken around town to acquire a few essentials.
My hosts quickly took leave of me, which was understandable at three am, and I quickly changed into my PJ’s, called home and went to bed. Then it was four am, then five, then six, finally I fall asleep and it’s one pm in the afternoon! Not having anything to do I fired up the old MacBook and started surfing and finding a way of getting around the great firewall of China- A year with out cheese, maybe I can handle, a year without Netflix? No chance.
Our first walking stop on Sunday was to the university and I was quietly impressed. It was everything I imagined, a perfect mixture of traditional and modern architecture, gorgeous avenues lined with trees, tennis courts and cars, a lot of cars. I learnt the side of Beijing I was staying in was a nice part and just on the other side of the university, we came to the side of Beijing 80% of the population lived. It was very different and looked, smelt and felt as if 80% of the population of Beijing was living there, but in a good way, mostly.
We went to get a Chinese Sim Card (you can pick your own number and everything) and soon discovered that China’s ‘4G’ was more like London’s 3G on Xanax. We soon went to sign a rental contract and went to lunch while we waited. We went to a small place near the university where I had the most simple yet delicious rice with egg and spinach (I hope they do takeout). It was Y15 and seven hours later, I still feel like i’m in a food coma.
The last and final stop was to Guomao, Beijing’s biggest shopping mall with a ridiculous number of floors with thousands of shops to get some essential supplies, including Pocky, Pocky was very important. We only went to one place and walked a bit of one corner but i’d take Westfield in Stratford any time. It’s a headache just thinking about the size of the place.
As I take some down time to prep myself for the couple of weeks ahead I put on The Goldbergs and am reminded of my family back home and how crazy I must be to voluntarily move to the other side of the world with just a suitcase and £100 in my pocket. Well I’m here now, let the adventure begin!
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Over and Out