First Impressions: Beijing, China

Even though I’ve been here about 3 weeks, I don’t feel like I’ve even begun to scratch the surface of Beijing. It is such a huge, amazing city, and I’ve explored very little of it. However, I’ve definitely seen some things and started to get a sense of the culture. Day by day, I’m falling in love with it more and more.

I️ went with a friend to see the new Blade Runner movie right before I️ came, and at times I️ think of it. Buildings with built-in screens and giant highways are common sights. While the pollution has not been nearly as bad as I️ anticipated, even the smog on a bad pollution day is reminiscent of that film to me.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is where I️ am staying in Gulou. Each day I️ wind through the alleys of the hutong. I’m a twenty minute walk from lovely Houhai Lake, and near a few famous temples that I️ am eager to explore. It’s an area that makes you realize you’re actually in China, as opposed to the big malls.

I️ teach in one of these gigantic malls, which dwarfs even the biggest that I’ve seen back home. It’s incredibly easy to take the wrong elevator and get lost if you don’t know what you’re doing. Thankfully, I’ve just about figured out the layout of the floor with all of the food.

Speaking of, being a vegetarian, albeit a very flexible one, is much easier here than I️ anticipated. With the help of translators and a smile, I’ve had some fantastic dishes. I️ have also had to pick meat out of things, but as I️ don’t speak the language, I️ don’t see doing this occasionally as a big deal.

I️ think what has struck me most about Beijing, though, is the people. In such a big city, I️ expected people to be cold and maybe even rude. While cultural differences do come up, like in the rush for a subway seat, I️ have been amazed by the patience and kindness of people here.

I’ve made a lot of the typical mistakes someone makes when traveling a new country, from getting lost to being unable to communicate. People step in with whatever amount of English they have to help, searching maps much longer than I️ ever have for someone in Chicago.

It feels like I’ve only just gotten here, and I️ can’t wait to get to know Beijing and China as a whole over the coming months. There are still so many sites to visit and foods to try, and I️ will do my best to recount them here.

All my love ❤

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