Sept 4 – 14, 2015
Beijing is a hotpot of millions of people. Even the supposedly serene, peaceful ancient garden by the Forbidden Palace turns out to be a chaotic flood of people running between the palace and the Tiananmen Square. I stopped at one point, sighed and realized that my quiet inner self was crying for some peace as I was trying to read the histories of some of the old rare bonsais.
I heard people saying that in Beijing it helps to follow others for tourist attractions if you don’t know your way. I witnessed that by trying to figure out on my way to Tiananmen. But my conviction soon hit the great wall of the doubt when I followed thousands of people at the Beijing train station but ended up in wrong places several times for getting my id verified for my ticket. From the moment I reached the station to the point, I stood at the gate of the train was a matter of 2 hours of ordeal, that too standing under a downpour.
长春（Changchun – ‘Long Spring’）
Changchun right from the point of my arrival threw a formidable challenge to me that it was willing to be soft on me on many things but not on the language barrier. At the station, I was able to get into a cab. I held the seats tight as I couldn’t find the seat belts and the rugged, shaved-head young driver with a cigarette between his fingers drove the cab as if he were training himself for the coming F1 race in Shanghai. My curiosity to communicate in broken Chinese with the cab driver, as I did in Beijing earlier, evaporated in fear with my eyes sticking on the road. I was happy to reach the hotel and with 3 RMB tips, the driver recovered all his lost energy to get out of his cab and helped me with the luggage.
As I was about to get relieved, the comfort soon disappeared at the hotel’s reception desk as my broken Chinese became a 10 minutes ordeal of non-stop laughter with one of the receptionists started taking a picture of me. She must have thought that moments like that were a rare gift in her otherwise dull reception job.
But Changchun soon became a wonderful experience as I started realizing how friendly and hospitable the people are here. Ma Chong, a graduate student at Jilin University (吉大), was very kind and patient with me and gave me a whole day helping out with moving to the campus residence, getting a cell phone, introducing me to Hui and Guandong delicacies in restaurants that otherwise I would have foolishly ignored, and treating me sumptuous lunch. I am forever indebted to her (and April who waited for hours for me at the Beijing airport).
My roommate is a funny guy. He appears to be a very nice and quiet guy, always willing to help. But he also has some interesting habits, like he hides a walky-talky to listen to conversations of the guards and maids during his break, and have so much fun uttering meaningless numbers to confuse people on the other end. The whole thing is actually fun to watch! But I am quite happy to have him as my roommate, we go to bed early at 10 and wake up at 5 in the morning every day, 早睡早起！And, 我们的房子不乱七八糟 and undoubtedly the credit goes to him as one day I saw him sweeping the whole floor with his hand using a piece of ragged cloth. He diligently cleans the washroom, the garbage and everything in the room. I decided to do my part of the share by buying air freshener for the toilet, beer and food for him once in a while (I know that I am evading my responsibilities :p ). Every day I study so much that he came to me voluntarily twice with a guilty face to say how he plans to study hard very soon.
Soon as I have settled down, I am picking up small interesting characteristics of the 中国人. NBA is so popular that you might see a ragtag guy in the bus checking NBA scores using an old, almost broken iPhone. Rolling shirts halfway over one’s belly is a usual sight, even don’t get surprised if a guy does that sitting in an expensive SUV. Oh! And I have seen only women with determined faces behind the wheels of the Range Rovers on Bejing and Changchun streets. Fabulous!
I am living in a dormitory, which is inside a huge campus. I take a walk on every other day to the shop by the building to buy my daily fruits. I have become ‘我的加拿大 朋友’/ ‘my friend from Canada’ for the owner of the shop, a woman who helps me buy fruits. I have also started enjoying the food and have yet to be disappointed by Chinese food here!
Reading this after a few months made me realize, so many things have happened since those first few weeks in Changchun till now. Perhaps, one day I will update it with all other wonderful people I have befriended in Changchun, the wonderful floormates called ‘四楼的gangsters’ and my beloved 中国弟弟。 Perhaps another person needs a mention, but I’d rather not.