Life in Beijing…, by Buffy Arbman

It’s funny how life goes on. I’m coming up on the end of my second year in China with Aihua, and I suddenly realized that after a while anything can begin to feel normal. It’s been an interesting and fun 2 years, and the absolute BEST experience I could ever have taken a chance on. When I first got here, I was nervous, wondering how I would cope, what would eventually annoy me, and I was feeling really nervous that I could last even 12 months.

The team at Aihua make it all very easy. And you adjust – surprisingly quickly! When I first got here, I got embarrassed anytime time someone stared at me, or took a photo of me. Back home, the number of photos my family has of me can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. Here? I couldn’t even begin to count how many pictures I have posed for with complete strangers! I’m in sneaky selfies – where the person walks ahead of you, then takes a selfie, ensuring you are in the frame! Quick snapshots – the amount of times someone has run / walked very quickly past me, then turned around and walked backwards to take a photo or a video. I’ve got to the stage when, if I see it happening, I smile and wave – it makes them a little nervous at being caught, but they generally come over and ask for a proper photo.

Having come from a country where everyone owns a car – or at least has access to a car, having no personal transport takes a bit of getting used to. I’ve worn out 2 pairs of walking shoes here, and my family thought it was hilarious that the official family couch potato asked for walking shoes for Christmas last year! I did get game here in Beijing and buy a scooter and a bicycle. The scooter was a lot of fun to ride until I had a couple of accidents on it (nothing serious, and pretty much caused by over-confidence on my part), but in the winter it was FREEZING to ride!! It didn’t matter how many layers you put on, you still froze. I have gone back to the buses as they are reasonably convenient.

It even becomes completely normal to walk around anywhere and realize that it no longer bothers you that you don’t understand a word of what is going on around you. I get by most of the time on sign language, and a smattering of Chinese – I’ve been really bad at learning the language. But then, with the tones in Chinese, it takes a while to learn to hear the difference in seemingly similar sounding words. I’m ready to give it another go, and this time, hopefully with better results…!

It might all sound scary and unknown sitting at home, but really, once you get over the initial fear of ‘what ifs’, China (and Beijing!) is an incredible and amazing adventure. It has been the most amazing outcome for a choice and decision I could ever have imagined. I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’m staying in China, and continuing to explore and learn about this wonderful country and its friendly people.

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