Monday, December 8, 2008

100 Days in China

We have been in China almost 4 months. We easily call this home. From visits by Karlene and Jim and Eileen Holzhauer, and calls and packages from home, we have kept in touch and received supplies. We continue to be amazed by the size of Beijing – 2X the size of NYC; 25X the size of Boston. Maneuvering continues to be the great challenge.

We represent the USA in everything we do. Many students report they have never spoken to a native speaker from the US before. (When we go to places dominated by Chinese, such as the Birds Nest, we’ll be stopped to have our picture taken. We are the novelty!) Uniformly the people are eager to have us thing well of China, even though they are often willing to criticize the government, at least in private conversation. Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing are all very proud of their heritage and tradition.

100 Days in China: Our Surprises

• Power of the heat and sun in the summer; chill of the dry cold in winter
• Wide boulevards 15+ lanes
• Friendliness of the people, from the post office to McDonalds
• No tipping!
• The international feel of Beijing
• The mixture of old and new
• Supermarkets are mobbed, like Las Vegas on a Saturday night
• People often work 7 days/week, 10-12 hours per day
• From the leaf sweeper in the park to law students, people focus hard on their job
• Fish are often sold alive in the market, so you can watch the demise of your dinner….
• Subways are easy and cheap (32 cents)
• Great Wall (need we say more!)
• A+ architecture, from the Bird’s Nest at the Olympic area to the “Egg” downtown
• Elizabeth and Anna see the world through their classmates at the International School
• Parks, grass, flowers and exercise areas – public spaces – tucked among the buildings
• English corner/ modern hutongs
• Finding old friends (Rick found 2 grammar school classmates living in Asia!)
• Trying new things: opera, theater, parks, biking, bad mitten, touring
• Shanghai = New York City; Beijing = Washington, D.C.
• The wonderful folks at the Educational Exchange Office

100 Days in China: Challenges

• Overstimulus: everything we see is new and exciting
• Being illiterate: mixed up communications happens often
• Being illiterate: we walk past stores we are seeking because we cannot read the signs
• Food differences; menus without pictures leads to surprises at dinner!
• Finding peanut butter in the market – packaging is different
• Hot foods are spicier than in the US
• Faxing, getting things notarized takes time and planning
• Distance between points A and B are much farther than they appear on the map
• No car
• Often little notice for events
• Missing family and friends from home

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