Let me first start off by saying I’ve never been to China, let alone Asia. Before I left the states, I had read travel books and learned what I could from my Chinese friends, but words and stories don’t really prepare you for what’s to come. For example, when I was in the taxi on the way from the airport to my apartment, I saw a cluster of buildings and asked if that was the downtown of Beijing. To my bewilderment, my guide pointed out that the buildings don’t stop there: The overwhelmingly large stretch of cityscape that seemed to span the whole horizon was Beijing. I couldn’t even fathom how ginormous this ancient city was, compared to Philadelphia or Houston back home. From that moment on, I threw away all of my expectations. I am here in Beijing with a clean slate, open to all of the experiences and lessons Beijing has to offer me.
My day typically begins with a 30 minute subway ride to work in WanShoulu. Compared to Philadelphia’s local SEPTA, the subway system here is so fast and clean. Glass doors cover the subways, everything is in two languages, and directions and stops are clear. 70 percent of the time, especially on popular lines, it’s so crowded that guards have to literally push passengers into an already overflowing train, but the other 30 percent of the time on less populated trains call for sitting and reading. One transfer and a 15 minute walk later, I arrive at work. I work as a creative assistant and social media correspondent for a scarf and ready-to-wear brand, Sefhyir. I’m in charge of managing the website, reaching out to buyers, and helping with her creative design process. Every now and then my boss takes me on her errands and events, like charity Ted talks and photoshoots. Next week I believe we are visiting a tailor to talk about the new ready-to-wear line for next season!
On the weekends, aside from Mandarin classes and occasional assignments from work, I partake in some tourism with my roommates. This past weekend, I visited a night market in Nanguoluxiang. To my disbelief, the crowds were actually even more than the subway! However, the crowd swimming wasn’t so bad, as my roommates and I were always by fascinated the street foods and crafts lined up along the streets. I saw candied strawberries, adorable ceramic figurines, blown sugar zodiac animals, jade seals, and even deep fried durian fruit. Overall the trip was very rewarding, and I hope to return again someday.