Ahh, it’s good to be home… I’m starting to figure out the rhythm of living in a big city and speaking a new primary language, all the while learning the ropes for my new profession. Teaching has gone well for me so far. Most of my students think I’m hilarious, and in teaching, at least for a private company like EF, being liked by your students is 75% of the job. Hopefully, I’ll pass my two-month probation and not get fired on my day off, or something else similarly terrible.
There is certainly much to get used to living as a foreigner in China. I don’t know about other major cities, but Beijing has a minor trash collection problem stemming from the 20 million people who live in the area, and possibly other factors, as well. Not only that, but the quality of construction is seriously lacking, as others have pointed out. I can confirm that even buildings only a few years old often look very frayed at the seams. The property I’m living in right now is no exception. If I remember correctly, it was built within ten years ago, but it looks reminiscent of a shanty town. I’ll post a video to YouTube when I get a chance, to demonstrate the sort of quality issues I’m talking about.
There are plenty of places to go shopping near my home. Walmart is not one of them. It’s just too far away. And shopping at Walmart here is something similar to shopping at a flea market. Things I’m not used to include:
- eggs sitting out in the open, rather than in the refrigerators
- the absolute dearth of regular ol’ milk in a jug (and what you can get just tastes strange, too)
- grocery bags cost money, but they are gigantic and very sturdy
It also took some time for me to find a decent milkshake. Many of the things I thought would be milkshakes, based on the menu, turned out to be ice and milk with the other ingredients mixed in. Red beans are a really popular addition for desserts like that. Eventually, I found a milkshake store in the mall that I live next door to, and I was officially okay, after that.
The mall next door is six levels, two of which are underground, and B1 has something akin to a general grocery store of decent size, kind of like a Fred Meyer’s, but without the clothes and camping equipment, &c. While I was shopping there for towels, I came across some very amusing brands. Take a look below:
Topics of conversation
Another thing I’m starting to get used to is women young and old directly appraising my level of handsomeness. I joked in an earlier article about the cumbersome number of spare tires I would accumulate after I came to China, but the actual response I received after I got here was surprising. Cultural differences make it so that in America, I’m just another white guy, and even if I’m good-looking, the average American woman just isn’t going to shout things like “You’re so handsome!” from across the room, unless she knows me and wants to mess with me. (Suffice it to say that never happened to me in America.)
Three women have given unsolicited statements about my handsomeness within the past week. One of those was shouted through the glass walls in my office. One was given by an older lady standing next to me in a piano shop. Yet another was told to me in a fashion a little more in keeping with my expectations: she told her friend while I was talking to her and a group of students, and her friend promptly ratted on her. Chinese men and women alike prize a pale, white complexion, but in that case, she certainly turned a darker shade of red.
On another front, something I won’t have to get used to at all is a nice place called 麥當勞 (Màidāngláo, or McDonald’s). I ordered a spicy chicken sandwich, and it was delightfully crispy, and surprisingly spicy. That’s one thing you can expect to get here. If you order something spicy, it will definitely be spicy. At most fast food restaurants, each table has Kleenex on it, and judging by my observations, many use it to stem the flow of snot that comes with eating spicy food. Chris Fyffe, you’d like it here.
In fact, one of my complaints about Chinese food in America (or at least in Boise) is that the “spicy food” is never spicy. I can make no such complaint here in Beijing. One possible reason why Chinese food is usually not all that spicy is that many of the immigrants who came to America have historically been from the southern part of China, where spicy food is not as popular as it is in the central parts of China like Sichuan. Or, maybe Chinese restaurants in America just aren’t as good.
I have to go to work now, but I’ll try to start posting an article once a week. And for those of you who read my previous article about trying to get my life installed here, I ended up going with the OPPO R9s phone. Now that the grace period for returns has expired on it, I also regret that decision slightly, because OPPO’s fork of the Android OS is reminiscent of an iPhone, and it does not allow the user to set an alternate SMS app—whenever I set it to my preferred app, it will default back to the OS recommendation “for reasons of security”. I’m looking for a way to install regular Android on it, but that’s turning out to be nearly impossible, too. That’s what I get for hurrying to buy a phone, I guess.
At this point, there are no significant major changes to be made to my daily life—until my school closes for renovation on April 1st. (Hmm, that’s April Fool’s Day…) Within the next week, I’ll get around to posting a short video tour of my neighborhood. It has charm. It also has food! It is an easy place to fall in love with, if you don’t mind the occasional smell of garbage.