It has been four months now since I touched down in China, and this is my first personal blog post since then. Part of that, especially the first month, is attributable to Blogger being blocked by the Great Firewall, but I have a service called WiTopia which I strongly recommend to anyone who wants a secure Internet connection to the freer parts of the world.
I left Gadsden on Sunday August 23rd, and flew out the next day for Shanghai. My parents drove me from Gadsden to Atlanta.
Since I landed in late August, I spent three weeks in Shanghai going through the immigration process. I had to get an official residence permit at the police station within 24 hours of touching down, then I had to schedule and go through the official medical check that all people who are staying in China for more than 6 months have to receive, and finally with the positive results of that test I had to go to the provincial services office and hand in my passport to be processed to receive my final, permanent visa and work permit. Five days after handing in my passport I was given a slip of paper that acted as a visa while my passport and work permit were still being processed, and I was finally able to head for my destination, Beijing. But I still had to ship that slip of paper back to Shanghai where the visa service used it to get my passport and work permit, which they then shipped to me a week later.
However I spent some good time hanging out with AIESECers in Shanghai (after I finally got in touch with them) and doing a few things in the financial capital of the People’s Republic of China. I even got a surprise visit from Tiffany and was privileged to eat in her grandparents’ home.
In Beijing, I quickly secured an apartment rather than wait around, since I was tired for having lived in a hostel for almost a month. I was desperate to get my stuff unpacked and have a bit of breathing room. I settled on a place that’s very well-located, in the Haiyuncang Community just outside the Dongsishitiao subway station on Line 2. Line 2 follows the path of the old Beijing city walls, and so I am technically just inside the old city. It’s also a 10-minute walk to the “Ghost Street,” or 簋街/鬼街 which is the most famous restaurant street in Beijing, and a 15-minute walk to the expat bar hub of Sanlitun. My home area:
View My Beijing Places in a larger map
I work at Prime Networks, as an assortment of things. Officially I am “customer service,” but my primary job right now is to oversee the launch of the second version of our company website. For a while I wasn’t receiving enough work, so I asked for more; now I am also the company’s global market research guy. The office was way out in the Cuiwei area at Wanshoulu, five stops west of the west part of Line 2 on Line 1 (pretty far out), but as of the end of November we are in a much closer space to me, at Jianwai SOHO in the heart of Beijing’s central business district, GuoMao.
I have made a few friends here, but most of them are expats. I haven’t tapped into the Chinese culture as much as I could / should have, although all of my coworkers are Chinese. I’ll start language lessons here soon, as one of the things I was waiting on before doing that was the office move.
Since coming to China, I have done and seen a few things, but my work schedule has kept willy-nilly vacationing at bay. In and around Beijing I have seen a few cool things.
I have walked around Nanluoguxiang Hutong and seen some nice traditional courtyards.
I have wandered the Forbidden City, that ancient citadel of the Middle Kingdom, at my own pace.
I have seen the Great Wall of China, the Ming Tombs, and the Temple of Heaven.
During the National Day holiday of October 1-8, rather than be mobbed by the entire country traveling home and the overwhelming nationalism, I hopped over to Seoul to visit Jeff, where we hiked in Busan over Chuseok and experienced the wonder of South Korea’s capital.
I have also met some good people, people who are hustling to make their names and strike it big in the rapidly growing economy here. Being in Beijing and Shanghai is like being in New York City or San Francisco during their boom years. It’s very exciting just to be here; it feels like Beijing is the newly emerging spearhead of history.
At the same time it is hard to feel like one belongs here. Many people come to China and “fall in love,” turning a six-month stint into a five-year tenure or more with no end in sight. I haven’t felt that, but I can see why many people do.
I was sad to spend the holidays away from family, as it’s the first time I’ve ever done so in my life. But it enabled me to save up my vacation to spend two weeks with Kelsey in Laos and Cambodia in February, over the Spring Festival holiday.
Right now it’s incredibly cold in Beijing, with the wind chill going as low as -18 Celsius (-0.4 degrees Fahrenheit). To combat it, I had a pretty cool winter topcoat tailored for 800 RMB ($120). Try getting a nice topcoat off the rack for that price in the West, much less tailored. I will be returning to the tailors for their service on other clothing, including getting a nice suit made before I leave China.
More of my general life experience will come. I can only post from home, since only my Linux laptop has Witopia on it; my work laptop does not. Now that the initial post is finally out of the way, I can get about more regular updates.
By the way, how crazy is it that 2010 is less than a week away?