Friday, May 30, 2008

Day Four: Routine Sets In

I am finally starting to feel a sense of routine about my day. I got up, did some pushups, showered, got dressed, went to work. I finally solved the darn problem with my bank account. Fucking irritating. I also paid my first month's rent. I've been asked "nicely" for second month's rent by Monday. I hope my withdrawal limit doesn't stop that from happening.

I got a glance at a gym in my apartment today. I need to look into that tomorrow. Hopefully it's already paid for (have I mentioned my apartment is swank?).

Work today was less exciting than yesterday, but not by much. The boss likes my initiative. The coworkers are calling me "Laoshi" (teacher) when they ask me questions about English. I have other skills, but acute knowledge of English is the one skill I have that everyone in the office lacks completely, so It's what I'm defaulting to as an intern, but the boss is going to try hard to get me into some real research next week. Not bad.

Went out for dinner again tonight, and I've found I can eat almost anything that's not made of some strange fish, and like it. I can even handle the spicy stuff, with enough Qingdao at my side to wash it down. I worry I might get fat here. I really thought I was going to end up losing weight. But we shall see.

I picked up a phone today! So I can make phone calls now. It's not even that expensive to call the US. So get your requests in now.

I'm getting a better sense of the Chaoyang area of Beijing (which, anywhere outside of China, would be a city on its own). At least, I've got a very good sense for having only been here four days. My Chinese is getting marginally better, too. Work is forcing me to think in Chinese for hours at a time, 5 days a week. Super good for me. Surprisingly, since I can get by on the street with short, simple phrases, I'm not learning much, except to listen to people who don't have crisp, educated accents.

But I'm learning about the culture, quite a bit. I'm learning the Chinese perspective; what nationalism means here, what money means, what consumerism looks like. I'm learning how the Chinese people view government, view Taiwan, view Tibet, view America and the West in general. And I can say for sure that most Westerners have it pretty wrong. I'm starting to realize I haven't had it quite right, despite a lot of studying. But coworkers and friends have been surprisingly happy to share their very frank opinions with me, and have been happy to listen to mine (though I tend to be more pro-China than the average American).

My Chinese friends have been genuinely confused when I mentioned that China scares a lot of Americans, though they understand better when I talk about the American perspective on Taiwan, on self-determinism/human rights and Tibet, and how overseas Chinese tend to deal with any doubts as to China's pristine perfection, etc. It's a relationship that needs a lot of healing, but one that can be healed through lots of talking. Good thing we're in the information age.

Anyway, I think I'm starting to learn exactly what I intended to. Everyone around me is eager to both teach me and learn themselves, so it's been a mind-bogglingly productive start to my adventure in Beijing. More pictures to come in later posts, promise.
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