Long Time No Update!

Wow, so it’s been nearly a month since my last update! No, I haven’t been kidnapped or relaxing in a Chinese prison or anything else that would make for a crazy story. I’ve just been quite busy working hard and also playing hard (but working harder!).  It’s amazing how quickly my work has progressed… from fretting about getting enough jobs, to having too many jobs, to teaching group classes… finally I’m at a comfortable level where I spend about 20 hours per week teaching one-on-one classes with students, many of whom are private clients, opposed to going through a school. 20 hours doesn’t sound like much, but travel time included, I’m out of my apartment for work related stuff 40-50 hours a week. An average day for me might look like this: Take the subway one stop, change lines, go two stops, get out and catch a bus, ride bus for 30 minutes, get off, wait for 15 minutes to change buses, get off bus, walk half a kilometer to my student’s house. After that, I have to get back to the subway station the same way I got there (though sometimes unlicensed cabs will stop and offer me a ride… if the price is low enough I usually take it), then get on the subway and ride for an hour to the opposite side of Beijing, teach another class, then ride the subway for an hour back home. Needless to say, I’m a busy guy these days! It doesn’t help that many students want classes on the weekends as well. Today is the first legitimate day off from everything I’ve had in about 2 weeks.

I really enjoy the teaching work… it’s much more satisfying than any job I worked back in America, and even though it can be stressful and tiring sometimes, all things considered I have a lot of fun in my work. I also get to wear jeans and t-shirts for work, which is a HUGE plus for me. For a couple of weeks last month I was teaching small group classes, which had from 3-12 students in them. I really liked those classes, but travel time, coupled with that they wanted me to dress up and that most of my one-on-one students pay more means that I don’t do that as much anymore, though I can go get more classes from them at any time, which I’ll probably do someday. I’ve also been doing some voice recording work for textbook materials on the side, which is easy and pays as much as teaching, so that’s also a good job.

A few weeks back, I went to a “Christmas Bazaar” thing I had read about on thebeijinger.com (I like going to these things to cruise for free samples — other than that they’re aimed at foreigners and everything is extremely expensive!). While there, I ran into a guy I had met at the last Expo I wrote about going to, and he told me he was organizing this thing to hand-deliver warm meals and scarves to homeless people on Thanksgiving. I thought it sounded interesting, so I agreed.

I met my friend AJ at the subway station, and we drove on his electric scooter on the sidewalks to our destination… everyone does this here, but it’s scary as hell when you’re weaving through people and narrowly avoiding hitting them. My roommate and one of my coworkers also agreed to go, and there was a group of Swedish expats volunteering as well. We split up into two teams, and carrying our loot in our hands, set out to find some homeless people. Beijing is freezing cold this time of year, so we had some difficulty finding anyone on the street. In fact, we walked around for an hour without seeing anyone. We thought we might try our luck in a subway station, and that proved to be correct, as we found two people sleeping behind the ticketing machines.

They were genuinely grateful and happy for it… I think they would be the only ones of the night.  After dispensing two of our care packages, there were still 8 left to go. We continued to try our luck in subway stations, but most of them have staff that kick the homeless people out, so that didn’t work either. As a last ditch effort, we headed where we knew we could find plenty of homeless people: Beijing Railway Station. Beijing Railway Station is one of my least favorite places here. It really makes you feel like you are living in a country that has 25% of the world’s population. Even in the middle of the night, it is bustling with tens of thousands of people. With all these people come the beggars and the homeless. We managed to get rid of our meals quickly enough, because as soon as it was realized that we were giving out free stuff, we were swarmed and mobbed by dozens of beggars — homeless and not. Even the greedy street merchants were begging for scarves and stuff, because hey, they could sell it. This was pretty disheartening to see… I felt like no one was actually grateful for what we did. After the fact though, I’ve learned that this kind of altruistic behavior is totally foreign to Chinese people. Talking to my coworker, the one who came with us, she said that her friends not only thought the guy who organized this whole charity effort was a weird guy, for simply wanting to help, but that he was a bad person. This is totally baffling to me… the Chinese collective consciousness can be very confusing and backwards-seeming at times.

Last week, some friends and I went skiing near The Great Wall. Even though it’s freezing this time of year, Beijing is right next to the fifth largest desert in the world, the Gobi, so it’s actually incredibly dry. In the 3 months or so that I’ve been here, it’s only precipitated in Beijing once, and that was right after I got here. So the snow was all man-made of course. It’s interesting that despite growing up in Colorado, I had never been skiing before, and I finally go for the first time in China of all places. There were only two runs open, the bunny hill, and the slightly steeper bunny hill. Even the runs that weren’t open looked like they would only be green-circle or blue-square in difficulty. There was only one lift open per hill, with about a 20 minute wait time, but I had more fun and spent less time waiting by going up the hill a few meters from the lift and waiting for people to fall off (it’s the kind where you just hold onto a pole). It was kind of a sport competing for the newly-freed lift poles with the couple of other people also doing the same thing. Through trial and error, I managed to teach myself how to ski throughout the day, which I thought was pretty cool. There’s a ton of improvement to be made, but I can make it down a bunny slope without falling off or crashing into anyone, which I consider a success! 

I’ll try not to wait so long between updates in the future. Tomorrow I’m making my first visa-run to Mongolia (the country, not the Chinese province this time), so I’m sure I’ll have a post to make about that.

Also, here’s the blog of another friend I’ve made here: afkforayear.com. If you enjoy reading travel stories, check it out. His travels have certainly been much more adventurous than mine!

This year will be my first Christmas away from home. It’s a little disappointing to not get to spend the winter season with my family and friends, but I have a good network of close friends and other expats here, I think the holidays can be special wherever you are or whoever you are with. I also just tried my hand at some Christmas themed blatant donation solicitation photoshopping, over on the right side, check it out —->

Peace! Never hesitate to shoot me an email or something.

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4 Responses to Long Time No Update!

  1. Mom says:

    Nice to see another update. I’m glad you’re not “relaxing.” Good work figuring out the public transporation system. I’ve heard more and more Chinese people are buying cars – is this what you’re seeing? Also, it would be interesting to find out why that gentleman from the Beijing Rotary club wanted to gives meals and scarves to homeless if this is “backwards” for the culture. Do they have non-profit organizations (i.e., Denver Rescue Mission) that help people turn their lives around? Thanks Jake. Be careful and don’t get in cars with strangers. Love, Mom

  2. Dad says:

    Jake,

    It is great to see a new post from you. Your efforts to deliver food are admirable. It is interesting that Chinese culture doesn’t participate in that type of charity. Being “mobbed” in the train station sounds like an experience in itself!

    It sounds like your day of skiing was fun. Let us know about your trip to Mongolia.

    Love,
    Dad

  3. The Websters says:

    Always so good to get your posts, Jake. Glad to hear you’re busy and in demand. I must say, I don’t envy you navigating mobs and skiing in freezing weather (shivering just thinking about it)! Meanwhile, we’re enjoying a balmy November/December with temps well above the freezing mark–into the 50’s and 60’s most days recently. My kind of holiday weather 🙂

    The Websters are looking forward to getting together with your family on Christmas Eve and we will miss you!

    Hugs,
    Theresa, Rich, Alex & Ryan

    P.S. Couldn’t see the blatant photoshopping art. You may have to try again.

  4. The Websters says:

    Okay, NOW I see it! Everybody needs a secret Santa!

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