Life in Beijing: Subway, a Sunday at Tian’anmen & other lovely details

In the morning, I am taking the subway to get to work. My plan with the scooter is not realized yet. But coming, at some point! 🙂 I might wait for next spring though. For now, Subway & taxi is doing the job.

The subway works really well. It is full of people when you get there at the wrong time. And if you think your bus or train, in Europe or Canada or wherever, is full in the morning: believe me, the mass of people here can be insane. I only do 2 stops and need to walk then a good 10min to the office. The single ride is 3 RMB (0.45 Euro or 0.60 $cad). Depending on the distance you do, it can be more expensive: 4, 5 or 6 RMB. All other subways in the whole world should take the Beijing one as example: great service, clean, fast (I never wait more than 2min, I would say), an amazingly big network of lines that brings you nearly anywhere, and for such a low fare. Two weeks ago the fare even dropped to 2,40 RMB. I think this was caused by some party activity in the city. But I’m not sure. Fascinating are for me the guards that are placed at each (!) entrance of each (!) station: they are generally 2-3 persons, 1 or 2 persons standing in the way, with a large red very official looking banderole across their uniform, to make you place your bag on the security screening carpet (like at the airport, the security check). 1 person watching your bag getting screened. I should do some research on how many people or bags are getting screened every day. It must be billions. Not sure what they are exactly looking for. A few times I had a bottle of water in my bag that got screened. A couple of times they wanted me to open and drink it (I understood only later that they just wanted me to take a sip of it), but mainly I refused and they just let me continue my way. The other day I saw a woman who had to open her little suitcase, to show them a tiny knife that she had to cut probably some fruits on her travel. Don’t know what happened to the knife. I guess she kept it.

There seems to be somehow a need for security, with so many people being gathered at the same time. Though the way how this is carried out is not very meticulous. It gives me always a smile in the later evening to see the young guard guy standing there in his way too big uniform, being nearly asleep, with his eyes closed, stand sleeping. I wonder how many thousands of people in Beijing have work due to this security standard. It might be simply a work-creating initiative. So hey, why not, right?!

A fact is that there are people E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. All the time. This is China, with its 1.3 billion people.

This is where people buy stuff online for a total value of 3,000,000 RMB… in only the first 10min after midnight. November 11 is called “Single’s Day” when everything in online shopping (I was told!) is discounted to 50% or more. I bought an armchair for 500 RMB (about 70 Euro), and a wardrobe for my entrance. Delivery is mostly free. Happening every year, on November 11. Wikipedia is stating that this years online sales summed up to over 14.3 billion US$. I am having a hard time to imagine all the delivery going out, though the whole country… and indeed, 11 days later, my armchair has still not arrived. But it should, soon. 🙂

Once I have been to Tian’anmen Square, on a Sunday, for a walk around. Craziness is the word. Chinese tourists coming to their capital city, to visit the important places. All of them taking pictures. Mainly selfies, with a selfie stick.

That said, numbers definitely become another meaning here. When I walk back home on a Saturday night, passing through the crazy Sanlitun area, and street, which makes me go nuts each time, I think of my nice old housekeeper Mr.Zhou, and I wonder what he thinks of all this.

Just yesterday I went to see him to pick up the mailbox key that he had arranged for me (yes, I can receive mail now!!! When I opened the mailbox for the first time, right after receiving the key, there was a letter from my dear friend in Hamburg in it!! Happiness lies in so little things!!. As usual, with his lovely smile of an old man (he’s 84!), he invited me to come into his living room, to have a seat. This time, he even pulled out his photo album, and he showed me some pictures of his wife (I guess she is no longer here with him), his 4 children and his grandchildren. He asked me when I will be able to speak Chinese… our conversation is extremely limited so far. He knows that I am taking classes. I think I understood that his origins are somehow from Russia. But I don’t know why, or how. I am much looking forward to being able to communicate with him, one day. He has been living in our building for 50 years. One day I will ask him what he thinks about our neighborhood Sanlitun today.

Some photos from my neighborhood:

Like I mentioned before, the clash between real and fake life is huge here. I remember this article talking about the different appellations of “Expatriates” vs. “Immigrants”.  The difference seems more obvious to me now, being that the Expat is living in a bubble in the foreign country while the Immigrant is trying to integrate himself into the new environment and society. I am such an Immigrant. And while I mainly meet lovely people that are very welcoming and helpful, even if my communication skills are still that limited, I do definitely feel like an alien here. Beijing has a lot of foreigners today, especially in my neighborhood Sanlitun, but still it happens quite often when I walk by the Wujing Hospital every morning that some Chinese man or woman, child or old person glancing at me with this astonished look in their eyes. A lot of them surely are from far outside town, probably from ‘pure Chinese’ communities, coming into the city to get treated at the hospital. Often I can read this question in their mind, towards me and who I am or where I come from. The beautiful curiosity in their eyes makes me give each of them a big smile, with my mouth but most of all with my eyes. I love these moments. I would love to ask each of them what their story is, where they come from, what their life is. And tell them my story.

On my way to the subway every morning, through Wujing Hospital, and on my way back, through my alley at night:

And finally, some little snow outside my window… we had snow already in November!! Gave me kind of a ‘home’ feeling… 🙂

Keep smiling, you all! 🙂

…more soon!


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