Hey everyone! I am officially in Beijing, China! I am currently taking a break from making jiaozi, which is a common Chinese dish that is delicious and easy to make! I have been in Beijing for almost two weeks now and it has already been a roller-coaster ride! Want to know why? Well, here goes.
As the plane landed in Beijing, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. It is my first time I am away from my family for a long period of time, and the thought of being alone in a city so far away from the United States scared me. As I got off the plane, my heart started pounding harder and my hands started to sweat even more. All I kept saying to myself was, “Erik, it will be alright.” At first glance, everything seemed alright. The airport looked like the one in New Jersey and it even had English signs, under the Chinese ones of course. I began to think Beijing might not be so different from New Jersey after all. I quickly got my luggage and took a taxi, which was conveniently located outside the airport. I handed the taxi driver the address of where I wanted to go and I was on my way to Peking University or Beida, as it is called here. During the taxi drive, I was shocked by how similar Beijing was to New York. It was big, loud, noisy, and had many cars and people. It was almost like I had never left “home.” I was pleasantly surprised to realize that Beijing wasn’t as foreign as I thought it would be, or so I thought….
I quickly changed my mind once the taxi driver opened his mouth. He began to speak to me in Chinese in a thick Beijing accent and at a ridiculously fast pace. Suddenly, I felt like I was in Mars. Even though I studied Chinese for two years in the United States, I wasn’t prepared to have a full conversation with a Chinese native. It was like someone had thrown a cup of ice cold water at my face – a complete reality check. I was in Beijing and it wasn’t going to be like New York, New Jersey or any other city in the United States. But yet again, it wasn’t supposed to be like those cities, right? I was just so nervous that I wished Beijing was like New York or New Jersey. But looking back now, I realize that I traveled all the way to China so it wouldn’t be like the United States. The best part of traveling to another country is to experience something different from what you’re used to back at home by taking advantage of the new language, culture, food, and people. And that’s exactly what I started to do.
During these first two weeks, I have already visited Tiananmen Square, started Chinese language classes, and met my home-stay family! On my second day in Beijing, I had the unique opportunity to visit Tiananmen Square! As I made my way through the entrance, my eyes opened wide as I saw how big it is! Did you know it is the biggest square in the world? No wonder I felt like an ant when I was walking! There were so many people in the square and yet it was so big that it could probably fit hundreds more. As I walked through the square, I felt like I was in the 1950s. The architecture of the huge red walls, gate towers, and tall buildings resembled that era. As I kept walking, I saw the Five-Star Red Flag flying high, and the famous painting of Chairman Mao, the founder of the Communist Party of China. My final sight was the most memorable one, the Chairman Mao mausoleum, which stands at the center of Tiananmen Square. The mausoleum is where the dead body of Mao Zedong lies, for the public to see. As I entered the mausoleum, there were so many things that shocked me. The quietness of the place, the Chinese soldiers watching my every move, the image of dead Mao, and watching Chinese people cry while seeing their dead leader. It went by so quickly, yet it felt magical seeing the body of such a historic Chinese leader in person. As I exited the place, I felt really lucky to have visited Tiananmen Square.
Apart from visiting Tiananmen Square, I also started Chinese language classes. I have Spoken and Written Chinese classes, and an extra Chinese Business class. On my first day of class, I have to admit that I was nervous. I had not reviewed Chinese in over a month and I was scared that I had forgotten everything. Thankfully I didn’t, and the first day of classes went smoothly. To reward myself, I bought a delicious strawberry-flavored bubble tea! Yum!
To finish my amazing first two weeks, I met my home-stay family! You may ask, what’s a home-stay family? Well, it’s like a home away from home as I get to live with a Chinese family in Beijing. Isn’t it cool? I get home-cooked meals and get to do many fun activities with them like watch TV or cook together. Well, turns out, my home-stay family is actually one person. She’s an elderly woman in her late 60s and she is the sweetest lady in the world! I call her Dama, which roughly translates to big mom. On the day I met her, I was very curious to find out who I would be living with. When I met Dama, I was quite happy and relieved to see this smiling woman with open arms. We chatted at a local restaurant and scheduled when I would move in to her house. I eventually moved in and I have been here ever since.
Well, in my next journal, I hope to tell you more about her and about our relationship since I have been here for only a few days. Until then, I will finish making jiaozi’s with Dama as she is teaching me how to make them! Zai jian! Bye!