Posted by: Nena Cavel | February 9, 2009

Hello From Beijing!

Well I’ve finally made it here and am settled in my dorm room at Central Minzu University in Beijing. The trip here was stress-free enough. There were no major delays and my baggage made it Beijing too. I excited to see the new wing of the Beijing international airport, which China had built in preparation for the Olympics. It’s impressive and massive. I had to take a train from my terminal to the baggage claim station. Also, when you enter there’s an enormous sign which says ‘Relax’, very comforting.

I’m staying at the West Gate International House, which is where most of the international students and faculty live. It’s much nicer than the Chinese dorms and really not much different from in the states. I share an apartment with a girl from Mongolia; we each have our own bedroom and share a kitchen and bathroom. The pollution in Beijing is very noticeable, some days more than others. Right now it’s pretty bad; it looks like the city is shrouded in some sort of fog. Dirt starts to accumulate under your fingernails and on your clothes. I can understand why some Olympic athletes didn’t want to stay in Beijing. Beijing is very industrial, lots of grey, monolithic high-rise apartment buildings. It is also very spread-out, not compact like a European city, which I did not expect.

Some interesting cultural differences to note; first, spitting in public is perfectly acceptable. Both men and women spit on the ground as they walk. I thought it was really gross at first, but I’m getting used to it. Also, no tipping the waitress in China, it’s considered rude. It is not considered rude to snap your fingers and yell ‘fu yuan’ (waitress) to get their attention. Also, Chinese people stare at Westerners, especially girls I think. I was on the subway with some other girls I knew from OU and we could overhear people talking about us. They’re obsessed with the NBA here; there are random pictures of Yao Ming and Lebron James around. Cars will not stop for you, nor will bikes. I’m amazed that there aren’t more traffic accidents in Beijing; at least I haven’t seen any yet. A mix of cars, buses, taxis, cyclists and pedestrians share the road and they always seem to just miss colliding with each other.

Today is the Lantern Festival, the last day of Chinese New Year celebrations which last for fifteen days. Every night people let off tons of fireworks in my neighborhood. I think I’ll be glad when New Years is over, because it’s very loud every night. The eating is good here, and ridiculously cheap. I went out with some friends for a big lunch at a nice sit-down restaurant and we each paid about 4 dollars. At night, street vendors come out and you can buy an order of jiao zi (dumplings) for about 75 cents.

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