China First Hand

30 January 2006

Setting The Scene

Filed under: Personal — china1sthand @ 10:44 pm

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.



  1. […] When living in student accommodation there was a underground station nearby. More lines are being built to serve wider areas of Beijing, but at this time the nearest tube to my new home is quite a journey. I want to visit central Beijing. My friend works on the way so today we both climbed into a taxi to her workplace. […]

    Pingback by A Trip To Town « China First Hand — 16 September 2006 @ 1:21 pm | Reply

  2. […] I am constantly astonished by the hours that the Chinese people work. My friend has today started a new project in her workplace that will mean she works from before I get up in the morning, until after I go to bed at night. She says she is not a particularly hard worker compared with her colleagues – she describes people that do not have time to shower, who sleep for just a couple of hours on a sofa in the office, or don’t sleep at all for days! I wonder whether they can carry this on? Science proves that this is definitely not a productive way to work (as if we didn’t know already) and it draws a stark contrast with the issue of ‘work-life balance’ being currently discussed in the UK. Then I realise – this is a country with several billion people. Education is world-class and individuals strive to ever-higher academic levels. They will do all they can to get a job and do well. Whatever job you do in China, there will be someone trying to replace you. This is probably not a sustainable way to work for the individual. The employer – and presumably the economy also – are reaping the benefits of this competitive situation. […]

    Pingback by Made In China « China First Hand — 16 September 2006 @ 9:40 pm | Reply

  3. […] I am very lucky – somehow, I have managed to develop relationships where I can talk meaningfully with Chinese nationals. My friend jokes that she is my agent! She has helped me find English tutoring work and been the bilingual intermediary. I now specialise in privately tutoring university students. This means I spend my time talking with very intelligent people about incredibly complex and controversial topics! I honestly couldn’t have dreamt of a better insight into the realities of this country. […]

    Pingback by The Youth Of Today « China First Hand — 16 September 2006 @ 9:43 pm | Reply

  4. […] Having your every need catered for is certainly the most wonderful welcome to a country. Perhaps Westerners have more expectation of independence? You can get too used to being looked after though – on my first trip I was alone to catch my return flight from Hong Kong. As I sat down the flight transmission across the whole plane welcomed my arrival… Just a few minutes ago, I had only just reached the airport! […]

    Pingback by Welcome « China First Hand — 16 September 2006 @ 9:54 pm | Reply

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