this entry was supposed to come before the last one, but delivery failed.

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

What’s Mandarin for ‘discrimination’?
Joe and I had to take a seven-hour train ride from Weifang to Beijing. It was crowded, loud, and pretty uncomfortable. We sat in chairs the whole way, which was better than what some others had to endure. Those who could not afford the train ride at regular price (99 kuai; less than $20) paid less but did not have seats, so some spent most of the long ride on their feet. Anyways, although the way there was long, it was bearable, and people were generally quite helpful. When Joe pulled out his Mandarin phrase book, people immediately started to speak to us in Chinese. We are generally the center of attention in a public place, especially in a smaller city (yes, there are 8 million people and I am calling it “smaller”) like Weifang. Laowai (foreigners) are few and far between, and many amusing moments have come out of this. The fact that we were trying to communicate somewhat drew even more attention, some of the standing passengers were crowded around our seats, and we were all trying to hold down a conversation. My Mandarin was actually better than usual, and I was able to explain a few things and understand the general meaning of questions addressed to us. Then, many of them began trying to take pictures of us on their cell phone cameras, which I really don’t appreciate. I know that this same thing happened when we lived in Korea, but I was much younger, and I suppose it didn’t bother me much then. However, everything you do being watched gets very annoying quickly. Sometimes, the attention is amusing (because I know it is not ill-intentioned) but sometimes you also just want to hide. At the end of the train ride, a man I talked to ended up giving me a bag of green tea that comes from another province in China and is supposedly very good!
Anyways, by the time we dragged all of our luggage outside the Beijing train station, Kathy and James were waiting for us. James will be my manager at the Shuang Long campus of CIBT, while Kathy is the assistant at the West campus of CIBT. We parted ways, and James and I got into a taxi to go to Chao Yang. Chao Yang is in the East, is one of the biggest districts in Beijing, and has many different areas. In North Chao Yang, for example, is the famous Sanlitun Area, which, as I understand it, is the Mecca for the city’s nightlife and ex-pat community. I am living in South Chao Yang, which is more residential but very close to the famous Antique Market of Beijing. (Note: Joe is living in the Haidian District, which is surrounded by numerous (something ridiculous like 68) universities and has many students and teachers.) When we arrived to the apartment, James and a representative of the company which rents the place showed me around. On a whole, it is less impressive than our apartment in Weifang. It is a two-bedroom place on the first floor of a very typical-looking residential building. As you walk in, the bathroom is on your left, and just ahead is a small dining area (“the living room”) and the refrigerator. There are two rooms, both with beds. The first room is bigger, and has a single bed (which is more like a cot), a couch, a book cabinet, and a TV. The second room is smaller, but has a double bed and a closet. As they began to show me around, it was clear that not everything had been prepared on time. Half the lightbulbs were burnt out, the TV didn’t work, the shower head spewed water in every direction, the apartment wasn’t properly swept or dusted, aaand the washing machine broke in a way that flooded the whole kitchen (fun!). Plus, unlike in Weifang, there are no basic “living things.” Absolutely no cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, or things like an ironing board. Which means I have additional expenses. And it’s so weird knowing that I have to buy these things and basically “start a life” in the capital of China. Sometimes life is very surreal, indeed. And, okay, this doesn’t seem like a horrible start, and this part wasn’t. I realize again and again, however, that how vividly you imagine things to be is usually directly proportional to how far away from reality they turn out. The next day, I got up quite early and made a trip to the grocery store. I didn’t want to buy too much, so I just got some breakfast and snacks. James and some workers came to the apartment at 11:30 to fix the washing machine and shower. After that, James treated me to a delicious lunch at a restaurant near the apartment. The food we had was very different from that which I’ve had in Weifang: we ordered spare ribs, veggies, and fish. Everything was great – Chinese food does not cease to impress me. After that, we had to go to the apartment rental agency to sort out some details. The landlady was at the agency, and her and James began to have a conversation. Although I wasn’t paying attention (and couldn’t have understood), it turns out that the woman does not want foreigners living in her apartment. The Beijing real estate market must be hot if people are able to reject renters on the basis of skin color. Now, I have to move from this apartment. Pack again, go somewhere else, get ready for another set of surprises. Understandably, I am upset. I am upset at this lady. Or, rather, I am upset at the experiences she has had with foreigners which make her think that they cannot be trusted with an apartment. It’s when blatant discrimination like this happens that I begin to question my gung-ho philosophy of people being fundamentally the same despite artificial barriers known as state borders. But I must not do this. I must not judge the whole basket because of one bad apple. Now, I must go and see another apartment that James found.

3 Responses to “this entry was supposed to come before the last one, but delivery failed.”

  1. charlie chan Says:

    haha, of course! chinese people are the most racist ;) since there are so many of us, i think we start to turn on each other.
    maybe i just feel it more because i ‘might as well be white.’ (how many times have i heard this?) or i can be a fly on the wall and listen to people talk.
    i’m glad to hear that at least there are more apples.
    -girly things: are you going to bargain in mandarin? did you try in russian? how do they know russian? (i mean did they live in russia? schooling? is it socially acceptable to ask these things anytime?) are you going to buy a fake?
    -mmm, noodles.

    i came across this in my lab book (lab final tomorrow!) and it rang a little bell of you (that i came across it now is NOT an indication of how carefully i’ve been reading my lab manual until now…well, maybe not.)
    i don’t know about dreams, but…

    “the innermost layer is the retina, which has rods (black and white) and cones (colour). most vertebrates see in colour except for mammals where only the higher primates have colour vision.”

  2. Daniel Says:

    Hey Anya! Happy Birthday! Where’s the blog posts?

  3. inaequitas Says:

    Anya will be back as soon as she’s got some more time on her hands. Don’t despair, she hasn’t abandoned us :)

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