I’ve been in Beijing for two days now although it seems like much longer. That probably has something to do with the fact that since Monday night I’ve had about seven hours of sleep (three hours Wednesday and a refreshing, four hours last night.) I’ve been awake far too long this week. It’s Friday night and I have this weekend to recover and, or find an apartment. More on that later. My first full day, Thursday, was a “meet and greet” day. Along with three other, newly minted English First teachers from the UK, we went to the English First, Beijing HQ to meet some of the folks who will ease our transition. We obtained new sim cards from China Mobile and for the first time in years, I have a new cell-phone number which I will never remember because it’s eleven digits. We all had lunch in the very fancy-schmancy restaurant in the HQ building. Care to guess what the cuisine was? It was outstanding and beautifully presented. Dish after dish arrived at the table even though there were only five of us. The bill came to about $40.00.
Our guide then took us to Jingshan Park which overlooks The Forbidden City and provides amazing views of Beijing from it’s highlands. The Forbidden City is very impressive even from a distance. Interestingly, we were the only Westerners among the throngs of people gazing down from the pagoda. I have pictures but haven’t been able to coax them from my new phone, but I remain undaunted. The heavy shroud of smog that greeted my arrival on Wednesday was as bad as I had imagined but it had lifted, otherwise, I doubt we would have seen anything other than outlines when we visited.
Some first impressions of Beijing: It is an immense city but immaculate! No graffiti, no trash, no homeless people. Take that, America! The people are very friendly and helpful and no one takes notice of my strange, foreign features which wouldn’t be the case in most of the rest of China, apparently.
Today, Friday, we went to the bank to set-up Chinese bank accounts and I went to my new office, out in the burbs to meet my co-workers. I have the weekend free so I will write about that on Saturday morning. I plan to spend most of the weekend trying to secure a domicile, which, from talking to some people in that office, won’t be nearly as easy as I had expected. Nevertheless, the sooner that happens, the sooner I can get out of the hotel, which is quite nice but with four suitcases of things that are slowly oozing out, it’s becoming very cramped in my single room. By the way, ever wonder what happens if you use a room safe but forget the code, so you cannot open it to retrieve your valuables? I have the answer. Don’t bother doing what I did, which is spend your time trying various permutations of the code over an entire day because I was afraid of finding out, the only solution was paying to have them drill out the lock and then paying to replace the whole thing. Call the front desk, explain what happened and they will send someone up who will enter some numbers and in five seconds, free your valuables. I was so happy I opened the bag from the safe, containing wads of “Mao bucks” to retrieve a tip to give the man, who literally ran out the door, shaking his head. I wondered why he had such a visceral reaction and then it dawned on me. He must have realized I was an American and that I was going to draw my gun and shoot him for his efforts. “American Exceptionalism.” It’s a powerful thing!
I can only hope that tonight, I will finally sleep longer than four hours. Having said that, I can see that sleep is vasty overrated and the lack of it this week last hasn’t impaired my judgement or perception in any visible way. Now, if you’ll excuse me. My dogsled ride to Cambodia just arrived in the trunk of my car, which is strange because it’s in storage on the moon and more importantly, I just realized that there’s no bones in the milkshake! Auf Wiedersehen!