A Travellerspoint blog

The Local Neighborhood

Beijing's Xicheng District, a Chinese toilet, and cats.

rain 27 °C

During the bus ride from Capital International Airport to the CET campus a small Chinese woman yelled instructions to us in broken English, and at the door of the West Building the Shifu handed us an informational packet and keys. After dragging my luggage into my room I immediately convened with other students in the hall to discuss the only important thing after a thirteen-hour flight: food. We eventually decided to walk eastward and stop at the first respectable looking restaurant we could find.

Upon entering the restaurant a problem immediately became apparent. We could not communicate. The people in Beijing speak Chinese. After about forty-five minutes of attempting to decipher the menu, and twenty minutes of trying to understand what our server was repeatedly saying (“You need to order more dishes.”), our food finally came. The restaurant experienced a blackout mid-meal, which aroused some angry Chinese shouting in another room. We all tensed up in response, and after two hours of frustrating miscommunication, we finally left, exhausted. We reference this first encounter with Beijing often.

The first weekend at CET is a blur of informational meetings, brief Beijing tours, and getting to know the other students. Apparently I made an impression on several people by asking for their names, looking thoughtful, and then leaving without telling them anything about myself.

I was a little overwhelmed at the time.

Therefore I have no pictures from the first weekend. But the second Saturday turned out to be a blue-sky day for Beijing, perfect for misrepresenting the weather of this city.

This picture is taken right outside of the Beijing Institute of Education main gate.

This summer in Beijing it rains almost every day. About three days a week the pollution is thick enough to sting my eyes and throat. I can see a bluish hue in the sky one to three days per week. Otherwise the sky is white. Previous summers, it almost never rained in Beijing. I’m told that the government is seeding clouds in hopes of clearing the skies for the Olympic Games.

Across the street from the CET campus is a shopping district well-known for cheap, cute clothing.


These red-colored doors are just the tip of the iceberg. Behind these shops are several huge, multi-level buildings packed with small clothing and jewelry shops. The clothes are at best Forever 21 quality, and occasionally Forever 21 style.

Although not really in my local neighborhood, this market is a good example of what shopping is like in Beijing. Shop after shop, each packed with merchandise and crowded with people. We went to this market the same day I took all of these photos.

From CET, I’ve walked past the red doors and turned left onto a larger street. This lot is to my right.

These motorbikes, when driven, are deathly silent – pedestrians beware.

The Chinese drive on the right side of the road the same as Americans. I’m told that only in Hong Kong do they drive on the opposite side.

The first week here I needed to buy make-up, and I could not understand why it was all advertised as “whitening.” Then I realized that Chinese women still lust for white skin. At least a third of all the women in Beijing use umbrellas to protect their skin on a sunny day. The others, like Yao Yao, simply wear sunscreen.

Since white is preferred, I wonder about the implications for black people. Yao Yao and I watched a Chinese animated movie together where the only antagonist was black. Several gossip magazines claim that the bars and clubs at Workers Stadium are banning black people because they are notorious trouble makers. Otherwise, I’ve seen and heard nothing.

I love Beijing’s (steadily dwindling) bike culture. The roads here have lanes for cars and for bikes.

This is a chicken on the sidewalk. The duck ran away.

I think this man is collecting recyclables to trade in for cash. Beijing does a much better job of recycling than Georgia; every trash can has one side for recyclables, one for trash.

Plastic bottles here are worth 1 or 2 mao (10 mao = 1 kuai; 1-2 kuai [15 to 25 cents] can buy a frozen ice cream bar, a bottle of water, or a small snack.). Therefore instead of the impoverished begging for money, they politely tap your side and take that empty plastic bottle you’re holding off of your hands.

Beijing – Where cars have the right of way.

Two of my friends, Stephen and Mindy. And it tasted the same.

Parks with open space and exercise equipment are common in Beijing. This one is about a two minute walk from campus, on the East side. The equipment in this picture is a simplified version of an elliptical.

A woman with children at the same park. This park truly comes alive in the evening, when women, men, and children all play games, exercise, and chat. I know this because I regularly buy bananas at a neighboring fruit stand and frequent the Baozi Restaurant down the street. (Baozi is a bread/bun dumpling.)

Beijingers love to play cards – in the morning, in the afternoon, into the night, and on every block. I see men participating more than women.

All the previous pictures are from the east, north, and west areas around CET’s campus. These men are on the South side.

There were about five different groups playing cards in this area.

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What is a Chinese toilet?

This is a Chinese toilet. Squat to use. It is hygienically superior (the body touches nothing), but inferior in comfort. Water shoots out a hole in the back when flushed.

The creep taking pictures in the girl's bathroom.

Before my bathroom photo session, I caught some cats going through garbage outside. I took these through my dorm room window on the second floor.




And I’m caught.

Posted by spelham 09:46 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad

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