I (Liz) am in Beijing for the next few days. The interesting thing about this trip is that it’s my first time out of Nanjing in 1 1/2 years, outside of a side trip to Shanghai in the Summer of ’08. Having a 6 month-old baby on arrival, not speaking the language, and frankly, not being flush with cash have made it difficult to travel much. We’ve really focused our resources on learning the language, which for us is the greater need just now. Sitting side by side with my college-aged classmates at Nanjing Normal University, I can see that my experience in China is quite different in many ways. They are off on weekend trips and long trips to Sichuan and the outer reaches all the time, and when the teacher talks about Xian terra-cotta warrios or the Shaolin Temple or Kunming, many of them nod their heads knowingly. Whereas my base of knowledge is much more homegrown. I know things about the homelife and culture (and thus an entirely different vocabularly, including all the household vocabulary and raising children vocabulary), and I really know Nanjing like the back of my hand. These differences are as they should be, and I’ve been in college and had that kind of freedom (albiet not in China). So while it hasn’t bothered me, I’ve still been terribly eager to explore this big country!

So thanks to my husband, who is looking after our rambunctious 2 year-old boy this weekend and beyond, I am in Beijing. I took a train last night, and for the first time in two years, I was able to sit as much as I wanted to sit (iow – I had no toddler to amuse!). Being 7 months pregnant, I am quite a site to behold traveling by myself in China. I brought my school books, which betrayed the fact that I was able to speak and read Chinese, and so the conversations started. Some people describe the Chinese as ‘friendly’ – that is a huge understatement. I would go beyond that and describe them as one big family with no boundaries. People simply handed me portions of their food, as they did with all of their neighbors, strangers or not. I ate a very random concoction of things yesterday, so I hope my stomach holds out. I shared my Nature Valley granola bars with everyone, which I think went over fairly well. I actually couldn’t always tell who was with who, the way people were jumping in and out of every conversation going on around them.

By the time I arrived in Shanghai, I had two invitations to visit people’s hometowns, one invitation to cancel my hotel reservation in Beijing and stay with a friend’s family for the next few days, two offers to help me tour Beijing, and three phone numbers. This is partly because I am a foreigner, but it is also part of Chinese culture. People here do not live in individual bubbles, as at times it seems we do in America. I can’t imagine having this kind of experience or even imagine myself reaching out this way on a train in America (although people are helpful and generally courteous in America – it’s just not the same).

While I relished this opportunity to meet and talk with so many new people (and about something other than my adorable son), it was somewhat exhausting to communicate so non-stop for the train ride, and after a while, I had to simply close my eyes and rest! Being pregnant does not allow me to push as hard as I usually would, and after my rest, I surprised myself by eating basically everything I brought with me (speaking lots of Chinese makes me VERY hungry, apparently).

So after the train ride, I wandered past Tiananmen Square on the way to my hostel (where I was, upon arrival, upgraded to a single room because I am pregnant – yeah!). It was a site to behold at night – all lit up and vastly impressive. Beijing is huge, and I can’t wait to see more. This morning I skipped the 30 yuan breakfast offered at the hostel and wandered out to buy baozi and a youtiao (typical Chinese breakfast food) for 3 yuan. It pays to learn the language :). I am now waiting to board a bus to see the Great Wall. It’s hard to believe I’m finally here!


1 Response to “Beijing!”

  1. 1 mjfalk October 17, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I’m glad you are enjoying yourself but it sounds like you are alone, Liz. What’s up with that?

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