A Day in the Life

I haven’t posted a blog in more than a month mainly because there hasn’t been anything particularly interesting to write about. I feel like I’ve come out of the “honeymoon” stage of culture shock, and life has become quite routine for me. My schedule has finally reached a healthy balance between work and play, I see the same students every week… it’s a lot less stressful and while not as exciting, life seems quite satisfying right now. Since I don’t have any big time stories to tell, I’m just gonna use this post to write about some interesting day to day things that go on here in the ‘jing:

One thing I love is all the delivery food options we have here. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and a bunch of other local business all offer cheap and fast delivery… within 30 minutes! McDonald’s is cheaper than in America (a Big Mac + fries & coke comes to only $3), while Pizza Hut, which here is a sit-down restaurant with waitstaff and a waiting list to get inside is more expensive (8″ pizza – $10). If you order from smaller places, you can get stuff delivered for $1.50 or so. Also I love that McDonald’s has pies in such flavors as Pineapple (my favorite!) and Taro, which is also delicious.

I wanted to buy a pair of shoes the other day. I’ve been shoe shopping here before, usually with disastrous results. The problem is that Chinese people all have tiny feet compared with Westerners (and my feet aren’t even that big), and it’s very difficult to find a regular shoe-seller that carries my size. At the one or two places I did ever find with my size, when I tried the shoe on, it was way too narrow. So I went to one of Beijing’s biggest tourist traps, the Yonganli Silk Market. As I walked through the stalls, all the pushy shopkeepers were shouting at me “Hey, boy! You want buy a shoes!? You need cashmere? Want a gloves? T-shirt!” I finally saw some shoes I liked, which happen to be (knock off) Diesel brand sneakers. The seller asked 400 RMB ($60), and 5 minutes later I walked away with a new pair of 100 RMB ($15) shoes. The girl who sold them to me told me that I drive a hard bargain, though I imagine they say that to most people who attempt to haggle with them.

There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as cell phone bills here… as far as I can tell, it’s all done on a pay-as-you-go basis. You can buy cell phone cards at most convenience stores and newsstands, and a 100 yuan shou ji ka pays for about a month’s worth of service. While I do have a gas and water bill, unfortunately electricity is also done on a pay as you go basis here. You have to buy a card somewhere,  and then swipe the card in your electrical meter outside your apartment door. This leads to lots of power outages. I can stand 4 hours without power at home, but twice now at my voice recording job, the power has gone out in the middle of recording, forcing me to go back and rerecord as much of an hour of material.

A Chinese slang word that originated on the internet recently and is being picked up by everybody is “gei li” 给力, which literally means “give power”, but is used to mean “cool”. From this came the Engrish (or Chinglish, as the Chinese say) words, geilivable (that’s awesome!) and ungeilivable (that sucks!). There’s also 牛屄 “niu bi” (said like “newbie”) which refers to a certain bovine body part but colloquially means “effing awesome”. This has evolved into “niubility” — the ability to do something in a f–king awesome manner. Then there’s “oh my Lady Gaga!”, but this has become kind of dated since I was here over the summer.

Some other small observations:
  • Santa decorations are still everywhere (even in the sidebar of my blog!). It still hasn’t snowed in Beijing, either.
  • You’d think in a city of 25 million people, running into someone you know on the street or in the subway would be very unlikely, but it happens to me at least a couple times a week.
  • We all know the Great Wall of China… China seems to love walls. There’s no such thing as a shortcut here. There’s so many walls and gates everywhere. Every university I’ve been to is surrounded by a wall with only a few gates.

Chinese New Year — also known as Spring Festival, is China’s biggest holiday, and it happens next week. Only for the week before, during, and after this holiday are fireworks allowed in the city… already I hear a bunch of them. It’s supposed to be earth shaking and deafening during the holiday itself. Last year fireworks during spring festival caused an under construction building next to the most expensive office building in the world to catch fire.

 

The charred ruins of the 50+ story building are still being dismantled to this day. China basically shuts down during Spring Festival as all the businesses close and everyone returns home to see their family. I was going to try to go back to Jiujiang to visit friends, but it’s pretty much impossible to get a train ticket right now, with all the people going to their homes.

I have an idea for my next post to answer any questions people might have about life in China. So if you’ve got questions, post them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them in my next post. ‘Til next time — zai jian!

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5 Responses to A Day in the Life

  1. Ron Florence says:

    Jake,
    Have read all your posts.You’re a very talented writer.Sorry I haven’t replied before now.One question.Do they have a Chipotle there?If not,you should think about a franchise.Seriously.Mucho money.Mo rice pleez!!Take care.Uncle “I love Chipotle” Ron

  2. Mom says:

    Speaking of food . . . as we Florences like to do . . . I am curious about your diet in “the jing” compared to your diet over the summer in Jiujiang. And, what the impact was/has been on your weight in both instances. Hey, when Uncle Ron comes to Beijing in May, maybe you two can work on a Chipotle franchise business plan! : )

  3. Georgianne says:

    Enjoyed this post so much as always. My question is: What is the healthcare system like in China?

  4. Chuck Hazelrigg says:

    Hi Jake- Luanne and I are reading your postings and find them quite interesting. Your writing style is engaging. We admire your ability and independence to do your thing in a foreign culture with such ease and and enjoyment. Your characterization of China indicates dramatic change from our visit in 1997. The country is obviously progressing at a rapid pace and making a place for itself among world trading partners. We were impressed with the ambition, entrepreneurship and high energy of the chinese when we were there. It sounds as though your clients are excited about gaining English language skills and ready consumers of your services. Your Mom joined us for dinner on Friday and filled us in on the activities of you and Eric. It is clear that you guys are a huge priority in her life. You have great inertia; keep it rolling! Chuck

  5. Aunt Kathy says:

    Hi Jake, wondering if you survived Chinese New Year? Any stories to tell from the week? I imagine you’ve had your fill of fireworks for a while! Did you get any red envelopes? Take care and Gong Xi Fa Cai! love, Aunt Kathy

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