Friday, September 10, 2010

Beijing Days

Ni hao everyone!

So this is it, the first official Beijing post. Wow. So much to say. Not sure where to start, but this is probably as good a place as any: the beginning.

Brian arrived in Beijing last Saturday afternoon, while I didn't arrive until Monday. After spending three months in the city 2 years ago, I think it felt somewhat like a homecoming to him -  full of recognition as he landed in the airport and drove past familiar streets, buildings, and sights. His first weekend was spent in a whirlwind fashion, joining up with our Beijing friends Greg, Miranda, and Bill for an orchestra concert, movie night, and drinks out on the town. I, however, came face-to-face with the realization that arriving in a foreign city for a week-long vacation is a very very different thing than arriving with 3 huge suitcases ready to move in for 6 months. Culture shooooooock. Not sure why this didn't hit me until I was in a cab hurtling towards my new apartment, but I didn't know ANY chinese. I mean, i know 'hello.' And yes, that's it. Never have I gone to a country and not known at least basic phrases! Yikes. Thank God for Brian and for Greg. I think I was on the verge of panic when Brian showed up, reassured me, and then ushered me to Greg's apartment where I immediately relaxed. It's really nice seeing a good friend. Especially when that friend has spent the last year in Beijing, has survived, and really likes it here! I can totally do this....

So since my near panic attack, Brian and I have been settling in. Albeit slowly. We've found the grocery store and nearby restaurants, the first 'must' of a new neighborhood move. I'm apparently stunning my co-workers with the fact that i LIKE chinese food and am up for snagging a vegetable dumpling out of someone's homemade lunch and diving in for shrimp balls shaped like seashells. What can i say, i like food. Apparently, so do they.

Back in the day when I lived in Paris I used to do a Top 10 List for the week. As Jay Wozniak can attest, my brain works in bullet form, so it seems only logical that I set out to do the same thing here. Therefore, without further ado:

Leah's 1st Beijing Week Top 10 List:
1. Beijing girls LOVE their shoes. High heels, sparkly silver sequined stilletos, brightly-colored flats, indie tennis shoes. They will wear them all over the city, to site visits, on slammed subways.
2. The subway is no joke. Brian and I took it the second day I was here, joining thousands of other riders to stand in line, wait for the doors to open, and then push, shove, jump, and cram into any available millimeter of space left in the subway car. There really are a few attendants at busy stations who "help" you get on. i.e. shove any lingering elbows, purses, and legs into the car.
3. I can't hide. I feel incredibly safe here, but there is no 'fitting in.' I am given the once over 30 times a day. I can't help but have the thoughts run through my mind, "I need to wear fancy shoes so i fit in." Nope, that ain't gonna do it.
4. My office coworkers are incredibly nice...and love their fruit. The afternoon is full of peach, grape, nectarine, durian, and random unnamable fruit-eating. At brian's office they have "watermelon break" every day. There's even a machete and fruit cutting table set aside.
5. Our internet is up and running at the apartment! So please, talk to us. your options:

         skype: orlando.chambers
         skype (leah): leah_chambers
         skype (brian): china.chambers
6. The elevators in my office tower. Are incredibly efficient. Since there are so many people in this office tower, they regulate the elevator usage. How, you might ask? Well, there is an attendant there every morning. When you walk up, she asks your floor, and pushes the button for you. The elevator is programmed to group certain floors together in order to be more efficient. So, you walk up, she pushes the button, she directs you to Elevator B, where you join other people from about 3 other floors. Others get sent to Elevators D or maybe even F.
7. Your office beverage choices: water and coffee. Apparently the chinese were taught at an early age that coke products are bad for your bones, and that you shouldn't drink water at mealtimes because it's bad for digestion. And they haven't ever deviated. So most drink water or tea all day long, except at mealtimes, when they don't drink anything.
8. Boy, i'm running out of things. hmmmm. Ah! I can 43 lanes of traffic from where i sit right now. I counted around the major intersection right outside and that's how many I got. Plus about 8 full bicycle lanes. I didn't know that you could have a highway within another highway. It's true.
9. No one wears shoes inside their residence. Slippers are a necessity, which would explain why i'm going to get some tonight. Even the man who came to bring me more water, looked in my door and pulled out a pair of shower caps for his feet and delivered the water.
10. We've got two holidays coming up! Looks like we joined at just the right time. The first week in October is a big Chinese holiday, so Brian and I are hoping to go hiking in the Yunnan province (southwest china) with Greg and his friend Gordon. Can't wait...

Alright, that's it! Have a great day, friends, and I know this was super long. Ah, oh well.

much love!


  1. Good to hear from you guys! We are jealous of Brian's watermelon breaks. Loved the top ten list too. Cant wait to follow along with you guys on your journey. We wll have to Skype someday too. Take care.

    Terri & Jamie

  2. thanks so much, terri and jamie! we love you guys...can't wait to skype and see the little man grow up! :)

  3. Leah! HI! I'm so glad I found your blog! Now I can keep up with your crazy adventures!! Scott and I are about to make a move too: to Colorado Springs. Scott is going to start (Lord willing) attending Denver Seminary in the near future. It will be so sad not to live in FL anymore, we have LOVED our time here!
    Love you lady!! and love how you are grabbing life by the horns and diving into the culture :) Talk to you soon...

  4. Leah and Brian,

    I am happy to be able to follow your exploits and adventures. This brings back memories of your semester in Paris, Leah. :) I am surprised they include durian in their afternoon fruit though. Have you tried it yet? Haha. I'm anxiously awaiting to hear your thoughts on durian...