More wooded, more modern, more friendlyBeijing, Summer 2012

My jet lag rudely woke me well before five in the morning on Friday, at least three hours short of what I had hoped. Along with still being tired, I was also hungry and decided to make my first solo venture into the Haidian neighborhood. When I went to purchase a few staple items at a local market, reality set in quickly. I naively attempted to hand the store keeper a five dollar bill for my items. She proceeded to frown, say something that, besides being obviously in an agitated tone, was unintelligible to my foreign ear, then deny my Ameri-centric request. Making it obvious just how ignorant I was being. Needless to say, I skipped breakfast. Thus began my trudge up my steep cultural and language learning curve.

Fortunately, the camaraderie at IES has proven to be exceedingly helpful while making the transition. I was not sure what to expect from the students or the staff prior to arriving but all have so far been more than welcoming. The student demographic is diverse, including everything from a 20 year old female anthropology major from the Midwest to a 27 year old male graduate student studying law and business from the West coast. Ultimately, everyone I have met has been interesting, enthusiastic, and obviously motivated. No doubt they will all do amazing things in the world. These are the caliber of students and staff one wishes were in every school.

The people at IES are not the only surprising aspect of Beijing. It is more wooded, more modern, more friendly, and more smoggy than I thought before I arrived. The last one being hard even for me to believe given my already low expectations for the air quality. China is also a byotp country. I didn’t realize toilet paper was optional in most cases unless you bring it yourself. Beside this fact, Beijing seems very modern. The subway is fast, clean, and air conditioned, with people dressed in fashionable clothes carrying all the electronic accouterments one would find in America or Europe, and some appear to be even more advanced. So far, I have had the pleasure of visiting a book store (it could be called a warehouse) that makes Powell’s World of Book’s in Portland look like a hole in the wall, seeing a custom painted Ferrari parked in front of restaurant that sells 10 kaui meals (slightly more than 1 us dollar), and watching two buses crash into each other, among many other cool things.

Today, I took the dreaded pledged to speak only Chinese for the remainder of my time in Beijing. Not to worry, I will save us all some translating time and spare you from having to read my posts in Chinese. Until next time, view some photos:

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