I think it is about time I explained some background. I am fascinated by China, and have arrived on the longest tourist visa available: 90 days. I have planned very little – I like to react to the moment – so that makes travelling a lot more complicated! This does not mean I am so naive to travel blind in somewhere like China. My housemate from university lives in Beijing: I planned to visit her.
With all that happened before I got here, it’s a good thing I am adaptable! The 8-hour time difference with China made communication difficult, and as Chinese New Year was approaching I was under pressure to reserve a flight. As I am also strapped for cash, I booked an unchangeable flight – only to learn that for my first week in China, my friend would be in Japan! This would not be so bad, if it were not for the advice in every guide book: Do not come for Chinese New Year – accommodation gets full and everything is closed! How would I buy my food? How could I get around, with transport shut like Christmas day in London? How would I even get from the airport?? Even if I managed that, how in the world do I find the few beds that might still be free, within a huge city? And afford the prices that inevitably will be expensive due to high demand? How do I do all this – without language?!!
You need an adventurous spirit to deal with such inconveniences. I was concerned, but then it became an extra challenge. In fact, this was a much better introduction to a country: I would see the real China and experience it directly, without the watchful protection of my host. I imagined this would mean suffering a dirty, small hostel environment for the week, and having to arrange my life all on my own…
My friend explained she was leaving a day later, so would meet me at the airport. I could stay at hers if I liked, but she had a better idea. We arrived at Beijing’s International University and it was holiday so they had rooms to rent. The location was perfect: It is on the colloquially named ‘University Road’, where many universities (including the world class Peking and Tsinghua Universities) are located. Foreigners are well catered for, and the locals are accustomed to our ways due to the numerous visitng foreign teachers and students. I overhear English spoken in my building. I have a large en suite room with TV, kettle, phone and fridge.
I don’t even have to clean up.