Continuing first days

Posted by anya on May 31st, 2007 filed in Uncategorized

James ended up finding me another apartment, still in South Chao Yang. This one is farther away from work, but not by too much. It is on the 19th floor of a residential building which is located on a busy street. On the whole, I like this place much better. The owners are very nice, and they left several basic amenities (such as hangers and a few dishes) for me here. Also, I like its layout better. It is still a two-bedroom place, but this one with a proper living room and a bigger kitchen. Anyways, after I went to see the place Saturday night, it was decided that I would move in immediately. On Sunday, the owners of this apartment came by and got the last of their belongings. The apartment used is owned by a woman and her parents, and they were very helpful in showing me around the place and explaining the area. They also helped me set up an account with a company which supplies water bottles. Since you cannot drink tap water here, the vast majority of houses, businesses, and offices have water cooler. I prepaid a healthy amount of water bottles, and the first was promptly delivered to the apartment. Afterwards, I decided to venture out on my own. Since it was already the afternoon, I knew I did not have time to see anything like the Forbidden City or the Summer Palace. Instead, I took a bus to the subway, and then went to check out the Silk Market. The Beijing subway system is incredibly user-friendly, and I was surprised at how easy it was to figure out which direction you were going in and how to change lines. I found it less confusing than even the St. Petersburg subway system, which I have been confused by many time. Here, I must digress to also thank the Lonely Planet, without which I would be much more confused than I am. This guidebook was a life-saver in Tahiti, and has proven to be incredibly useful while in Beijing. The Silk market is a very famous tourist trap, and with good reason. It is a huge (maybe 6 floors) market which sells everything knock-off. When Kathy had told me about it, I imagined it to be big, but when I actually saw it for myself the scale impressed me even more. There are hundreds upon hundreds of vendors selling everything from Puma shoes to YSL Shirts to Coach wallets. Seriously, when I got to the floor which sells purses, I was in awe. Vendors literally hand you an LV or Gucci catalogue, and ask which model you are looking for. Besides the more popular fakes, there are also several gorgeous Miu Miu, YSL, and Hermes models. However, walking around the Silk Market is as exhausting as making a decision about what you want to buy. From every direction, vendors are shouting repeat phrases, learned like poems, at the many, many laowai walking around. Vendors grab your hand, and you hear “pretty lady, would you like a bag/shirt/jacket/shoes?” It gets very annoying, very fast. It is impossible to even look at an item without being hunted down by nagging vendors, offering you a “special price.” I didn’t even pause to bargain once, since I wasn’t really looking to buy anything just yet. I just walked around in awe, and did a lot of people-watching. I heard several Russian conversations, and heard several of the Chinese vendors speaking Russian. I wonder whether I will have an advantage when bargaining in Russian or in English? Muahaha. Finally, I got out of the market and walked around the area a bit. Here, you find a plethora of familiar businesses: Subway, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Lavazza(!), 7 Eleven, and Sizzler, just to name a few. All of these are incredibly expensive, in my opinion. An espresso at Lavazza, for example, costs about $5. At a cafe two doors down, this is the same price for a large mug of Yanjing beer on tap. Although $5 is very expensive for beer, I decided to sit down and enjoy it anyways, since part of town is a great place to people-watch. I ended up talking to the waitress, who spoke very good English, and was a HR Management student at a university in Chao Yang. We ended up exchanging phone numbers (oh, yes, btw! I managed to get a cell phone card all on my own!), so hopefully she can show me some spots in Beijing. I also dropped by the famous Beijing Friendship Store, which is a big department store filled with all sorts of trinkets for tourists to take home. The prices there are astonishing – everything is much, much more expensive than in Weifang. I think I will be doing most of my gift-shopping back there, haha. Attached to the Friendship Store is a small grocery store which carries most food items which Westerners could want but which are unavailable at Chinese Supermarkets. All this at sky-high prices, of course. But they have cheese, which is exciting! I might have to splurge. Mmm, cheese. Example of prices: a bag of Doritos cost almost the same as a meal for 4 people which I paid for at a noodle restaurant in Weifang. Although I wasn’t too productive today (Sunday), I am proud of myself for being able to navigate the bus and subway systems enough to not get lost the whole day! First day of work is tomorrow, and I am excited to begin new projects. I am in much better spirits today!


One Response to “Continuing first days”

  1. Sara Says:

    Woot!!! Awesome post, Anya. I’m excited to be living vicariously through you!

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