Living in the “Shan”, by Victoria MacFarlane

What an incredible 7 months it’s been. Back home in England I had lived in a small village my whole life, which had its advantages in offering a quiet and scenic backdrop to my childhood, but the move to Beijing has been liberating and vastly different.

Here in Beijing, I live in Shijingshan District (simplified Chinese: 石景山区), but everyone calls it the Shan. It lies to the west of the urban core of Beijing and is part of the Western Hills area. It’s one of the smaller districts, but is still home to nearly half a million people (huge by my standards!). The western stretch of the easily accessible 5th Ring Road lies in this area, and the Bajiao Amusement Park Station on Line 1 of the Beijing Subway is located really close to the apartments where I (and the other Aihua teachers) live. For me, the Shan is the perfect balance of city living with easy connections, while being far enough out of the city centre to escape some of the madness.

I am also a keen runner, and being a little out of the city means being close to some beautiful mountain trails, as well as a leisure park which has been a great place to run this summer, though I may have to switch to a gym now that the chilly winter is nearly upon us.

In an neighbourhood with your fellow Aihua teachers and in a city containing millions of people, finding a social event to attend is never difficult. Hop on the subway and the potential for a good day or night out is endless. The diversity of Beijing allows you to learn about local cultures and others too, and discover shared interests with someone from a totally different background. Also, I love food and have loved trying all the authentic Chinese food on offer, but often still have a craving for Mediterranean or Mexican food! Beijing offers countless options when it comes to international cuisine. The Shan works as the perfect home base to shuttle into and out of the heart of the city, even if it’s just to get some tacos and burritos. Yum!

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