The Aforementioned 10 Things:
1. Many of the doorways have a step up as you walk through, like a threshold, but 6-8 inches high. I’m not sure what the cultural/practical history behind this is, but when you’re not used to stepping up every time you walk through a doorway, it’s easy to forget and nearly go sprawling. I, however, have remained upright.
2. Traffic isn’t just insane – there is a definite lack of any kinds of lights or signage on all but the largest, busiest streets. This results in coagulated masses of cars, bikes, scooters, and shuffling grannies that resemble parking lots more than actual roads.
3. However, all the cars are pristine. I can’t imagine how, but I’ve seen less evidence of/actual accidents here than I would normally in the same time frame at home. Fearlessness, quick reflexes, and a lot of yelling in Mandarin, I suppose.
4. You have to squat to pee (etcetera). I’ve only seen an American-style toilet in my hotel, and I was a bit shocked the first time I walked into a public bathroom in a houtong (alleyway) to find a young Chinese woman of about my age squatting and browsing the internet on her smart phone . I’m becoming a fan, actually – far less water is used per flush, and it’s not like squatting is uncomfortable. I get better at it every time!
5. However, you also have to remember to bring toilet paper with you, because sometimes there isn’t any. And when there is, it’s in one dispenser as you walk into the restroom, not in each stall… so close, yet so far. Either way, it’s good to have a roll in your purse as backup.
6. In China, they don’t seem to differentiate between breakfast and lunch and dinner in the same way Western cultures do. Breakfast at our hotel included noodles, fried rice, steamed pork buns, and what I can only imagine to be steaming hot Tang (Are you reading this, Nana?? Come to China for your hot Tang fix!). No cereal or coffee, but it was all delicious!
7. ‘Post Office’ means the same thing as ‘Bank’. I was searching for an ATM and directed to a post office building, which turned out to actually be just a storefront with a whole line of ATMs, nothing post-office related to be seen. My question is, where do I go to send postcards? The pharmacy?
8. Most of the women dress so darn fancy! Here I was, traipsing around the Forbidden City in athletic shorts and a tank top, while half the Chinese women around me were wearing dresses I would sport to a dance, and heeled/platform sandals to boot! I admired many a dress while wondering at their ability to withstand the heat and humidity in all that synthetic material and those toe-pinching contraptions. I even saw a pair of shiny, silver, knee-high, TOELESS boots. She rocked ’em.
9. Another note on fashion: nylon-style see-through socks are ubiquitous. Worn with flats, sneakers, sandals, boots, etc, children and grandmas alike have them. Most are standard nylon-tights-flesh-color, but I noticed a few that came in polka dots or a fetching blue shade. Just like the steps, I’m not entirely sure of the purpose/functionality/history of this particular article of clothing.
10. Baby butts! Baby butts baby butts baby butts! Apparently it’s kosher for babies to wear shirts and shoes, but no pants (would they get service in an American restaurant??). I’m not complaining, however, because I’ve already seen two adorable, chubby babies with two adorable, chubby baby butts today! It does seem kind of dangerous for the parent/supervisor, however.
The Previously Noted Brief Account:
My travel on the 22nd went very smoothly, if you can count 24+ hours without sleep, 2 flights, and 11+ hours next to a baby during flight number two as ‘smoothly’. (The baby was very generally well behaved, and extremely cute, but did wail occasionally. I sympathized.) In fact, I felt like the flight went by pretty quickly. I feel like my experience of time is very tied to change in scenery and activity, etc. Without all the normal change and activity I would experience in 11 hours, it didn’t feel that long at all. And I was very lucky to have another student from my program on the same flight who speaks much better Chinese that I do – read: he speaks ANY Chinese – he helped me through the incredibly enormous and confusing Beijing airport.
Arriving at the hotel after ~27 hours awake (minus a few short naps here and there) and an extended period during which my roommate and I couldn’t figure out why our lights wouldn’t stay on (apparently you have to leave the room key in a slot by the door, not just insert it and think you’re good), we both fell into bed. I was completely exhausted and therefore got a pretty good night sleep – out by 10 pm, and didn’t wake up until 6 am.
End Day One.