Breaking cultural stereotypes while making friends in exotic places. My recent trip to Beijing has opened my eyes as an American and as I now focus on finishing my degree in Educational Consulting, I hope to share my experiences and knowledge with others so they too can make a difference in the lives of others and their community.
Monday, July 2, 2018
Day Two: Arriving at My New Home Part One
Bejing Landmark Hotel Conference Area
The sun flooded my hotel room at the Beijing Landmark Hotel earlier than I was used to. And even though I needed sleep, my brain said, “Sun! Time to wake up.” Ugh. I’m not a morning person, but I still got myself out of my bed and started my day. I didn’t know it yet but 5:30 am was going to be my new internal alarm clock time for waking up in the morning.
Zombie-like, Katie and I stumbled around our room collecting our belongings and getting ready to meet Dora, a J-1 Work and Travel Program Coordinator at Bridge for Education and International Travel in Beijing, China. Dora and Scarllet were are Chinese contacts through the World Traveler Program through CHI (Cultural Homestay International). Two hours after waking up from the first good night sleep in over 24 hours had Katie and I contacting our families through WeChat. My parents were supportive of the situation I was now in.
Dora met Katie and I in the hotel lobby at 9 am and helped us transport our luggage to her office, a few blocks away. When I booked my plane ticket I was made aware that I was going to need to stay in a hotel the first night. Luckily, I found a hotel near Dora and Scarllet’s workplace.
Orientation went like this. I learned about the requirements I needed to meet to receive my stipend at the end of my stay (900 Yuan or $134.97 USD), an opportunity to teach English online ($15 USD an hour), got my subway card with 30 Yuan ($4.50 USD) on it, went to my first Chinese restaurant, and learned some simple greetings in Chinese. The Chinese restaurant was delicious and had traditional Chinese noodle dishes. The hardest thing was figuring out how to use chopsticks.
As Katie and I were separated as I went with Dora to my host family, Dora brought me to The Bank of China to exchange $100 USD (666.82 Yuan). After a very confusing hour at the bank, I finally was able to convert my hundred-dollar bill. Quickly, I figured out that I was told a little white lie about the Chinese. “Most Chinese citizens know English.” False! If it weren’t for Dora, I wouldn’t have been able to convert my money as no one in the bank spoke English.
Along the way, I mentioned to Dora that I have a Google phone. I knew by her smile that I was in for a lecture. Yes, I knew that China blocked all Google websites and services. My phone service, Google Fi, had told me that I was covered in China and that my phone would work. This wasn’t true. I ended up buying a temporary Chinese SIM card, costing me 150 Yuan ($22.49 USD), and getting a Chinese phone number and data.
I immediately noticed the heat when I exited the phone store in Chaoyang District, East Beijing. When the heat from the sun burns your skin, you know you're in for a treat. I learned throughout my stay that the heat and sun were going to be my biggest problems. The pasty white American woman who lives in Wisconsin and sees more clouds than sun in a year was going to learn what a sunburn was within two days.
My ride to my host family was another first time for me. The taxi driver was very kind, but as I stated before, no English was spoken, and I had to rely on Dora to translate everything. I’ve never used public transportation as I haven’t needed to use such services when I live in a city that doesn’t even have 100,000 people. Appleton has public transportation (buses and taxis, the occasional Uber) but most people and I own my own car. The taxi was different as there were no seatbelts and people in Beijing who drive don’t follow the rules of the road. Regardless, I didn’t feel unsafe in the taxi. There was just a bunch of brake checks and speeding up throughout my forty-five-minute drive.
My new home for the next month.
Arriving at Du Cheng Jun community in the Fengtai District in West Beijing was an eye-opener. My host family lives in a gated community that has a beautiful courtyard and several convenience stores that has all the ice cream an American woman could want. The short trip of finding the correct building number and entering without a key (we had to wait until someone let us in) was all it took for me to start to feel nervous. But this didn’t last long because as I slowly exited the elevator, my host sister (5-year-old Dora) ran to me and gave me the biggest hug. I was immediately accepted by my host sister and she enthusiastically tried to drag my checked luggage into their house. It was a sight to see as I watched a five-year-old drag luggage that probably weighed more than her and was about as tall as her.
My host sister, Dora.
This was the first half of my second day in Beijing, China. It didn’t know it yet but the kindness of my host family was going to eventually make me want to stay when I was scheduled to return home.