Thank you everyone for all the well wishes! The flight was great, it actually went by pretty fast (as fast as a 14 hour flight can go), and before I knew it we were finally in Beijing! The time difference is + 12 hours, so its a difference of night and day, which means huge jet lag. My husband and I woke up yesterday at 2:30 in the morning and we were both wide awake. Last night was so much better though, we went out all day and made ourselves really, really tired, then went to bed and we were able to sleep from 9:30pm to 5:45am. Awesome! Hopefully that is my first step to getting over the jet lag.
This is the sign from customs at the airport. We are the foreigners here in China, or waiguoren, 外国人. Or, as we have heard a lot of already as we make our way around town on the subway, or as people run over to us pointing and excitedly exclaiming, "laowai!" - 老外. Laowai is the colloquial way to say foreigner. It doesn't necessarily have a bad connotation, I think its all in how its used... hah.
Yesterday we went to our new language school to register and sign up for classes. I'm so excited to start Chinese classes again! About a month and a couple weeks after graduating from my DLI Chinese program, and its definitely time to start going back to class to learn new things and even get some refreshers. Chinese is the sort of language that you really need to stay up on!
Luckily my Chinese has proved useful already - in the subway station, at the hotel. Its funny because I always start with English, and its like - why? Why do I do that? I never understood that in the U.S. when people who knew the language, at least a little bit, started with their native language and then switched to English as a last resort. Well, I know why after just a few days here ... its so much more comfortable to use your native language!! But I'd be doing myself and the people a disservice if I always start with English - so my goal is to immediately start with Chinese from now on and if I get stuck, switch to English and see what happens. Most English-speaking Chinese take one look at me and speak English, so I am going to work on answering them in Chinese and see if I can get them to speak Chinese with me instead of English.
Yesterday at the hotel, housekeeping knocked on the door and asked me if I had laundry. I didn't know exactly what she was referring to, so I said something asking about towels, did she want to switch out our towels? She looked at me and told me she didn't understand. I called for my husband - and luckily he didn't hear because I know just as much Chinese as he does! He's just way more outgoing than me, and not at all self conscious like I am. SO, I switched to Chinese and asked if she wanted to change our towels - she had a really surprised look of relief on her face and broke out into a huge smile. I explained in Chinese that we just arrived the night before and our towels were still clean, so we didn't need new ones. It was really awesome to use my language like that! And that stuff is so basic, its really majorly within my "ability" zone.
One thing that we really need to work on is the names of different foods and Chinese dishes. We didn't learn a lot of that type of info because there are so many varieties, but actually being here, you sort of need to know or else you really have no idea what you are ordering, and the English translations are usually not very useful. Yesterday we had a friend who has been living here a year already help us at lunch, so our food was delicious. The Chinese food in China is really different from Americanized Chinese food, and SO much tastier! I have to admit though, that I am the type of person who could eat Chinese food once every 2 months and not crave it for another 2 months. The food thing is going to be a challenge for me! Luckily our friend also pointed out some non-Chinese restaurants that she says are actually very good.
This is the Chinese restaurant we ate at for lunch. It was packed with natives and for good reason - its delicious! The food in China is so cheap. We ordered like 5 dishes, 4 of us ate and we had enough to feed a small family in the end! And it was only about $20 total.
These were so delicious! I don't know what type of meat it was and at this late stage I don't want to know either.. :) Sometimes I think you are better off not knowing. Its probably just pork. Anyway these are definitely going to be a favorite of mine I can tell!
Yum! This next dish had these little round things in it, don't know what they are, and they have a sort of almost numbing effect. Anyway this was a really tasty dish.
Yum! My friend called this slapped cucumbers. Whatever, it was good! very crisp and refreshing on a hot day!
We took the subway for a quick trip to Tiananmen Square. SUBWAYS IN BEIJING... are an experience. One word sums it up: SARDINES. We were packed in like sardines. Its so tight in there you don't even need to hold on because you are surrounded and squeezed in so tight, you all just sway together and no one falls down. At one point, the subway stopped at a station, NO ONE GOT OFF and several more people GOT ON! It was CRAZY. I have no idea how we all fit. Its nuts.
Anyway on the way out of the subway these two guys ran over two us and asked us to take a picture with them. The funny thing: this happened all day long. We were blatantly stared at and had our picture taken, whether we were asked or whether it was sneakily taken. I think a lot of the people who stare or who are so shocked by us are from smaller towns, not from Beijing.
This is our first view of the Forbidden City - we didn't tour it yet, thats a half day at least and we were still so tired.
This cute old Chinese guy selling China flags in Tiananmen Square.
Two Chinese something-or-other (I'll have to find out) guard Mao's tomb in Tiananmen.
And my husband and I in front of the Forbidden City.
Interesting cultural experiences of note (other than those already mentioned!):
1. Walked off the plane at the international airport, decided to use the restroom... walked in and promptly walked out after I saw it was only Chinese-style toilets, which are flat in the ground that you need to squat over. Don't get me wrong, its no big deal. I walked out because I need to figure out the logistics of all of this - how? How low do you go to ensure no splashage? How do you squat, keep your balance, and make sure your pants don't fall where you don't want them to fall? And with my crampy legs after a 14 hour plane ride? I took a raincheck.
2. A mom in the subway station had her little boy, about 5, stop, drop his pants and pee right there in the main hallway, on the floor. I guess if your kid has to go he has to go!
3. Split pants. Babies/toddlers wear them around here, we saw a lot of this around Tiananmen. Would have taken a picture but I felt weird snapping one. Here is one I found on google images:
When I talk about things like this - I'm not judging or poking fun or thinking its gross - I'm just taking notes. Its really interesting to see these aspects of a different culture!
And I knew you guys would appreciate this:
This is China?! There is also a Zara just a few feet away!
Today my friend (who also just got here) and I are going to take a walk by ourselves. I'll be the only Chinese-speaker so this should be an interesting test! I'll try to add more pictures later!