Living in “the Shan”, by Ismael Milligan

Shijingshan or as it’s affectionately known “the Shan”, is a district of Beijing in the West part of the city. To the West you can see the low mountains that overlook the city and to the East the bustling city of Beijing. If you have a northern view you can see the Ba Jiao amusement park and the Ferris wheel that is often lit with neon lights. Aihua’s apartments are located near the district’s eastern most border and are conveniently located near a subway station on line 1 that takes you straight into the heart of the city.

When you arrive Aihua gives you a guide to the local area to help you find restaurants, grocery stores, or other things you might need like utility buildings, banks, or electronic stores. For the first few weeks I kept it in my backpack and took it everywhere with me. As I learned more about my area, I’ve needed it less and less and now I feel like I know our neighborhood as well as I knew my own, back home.

Right by the gates of the apartment complex are loads of restaurants, a few grocery stores, and a barbershop which is super convenient if you are from a country like the US where to do or buy anything includes at the least a 10-minute drive. All of these places are comparatively cheap compared to other parts of Beijing and new fresh produce is delivered every morning to the grocery stores. Also, if you’re lucky there might be a jian bing cart (a delicious breakfast crepe, with a crunchy cracker inside, popular in Beijing), knife-sharpener, or house-plant salesman outside. Commodities I didn’t think I’d ever care for until I moved to China.

Often when I am shopping or stopping by a restaurant, I’ll run into some fellow teachers which always makes for a good conversation or plans for later. There is a great German bar that is short bike ride away where I often go to for an after-work beverage and a nearby mall where you can watch movies or do some shopping.

After living here for a few months, the “Shan” has really become a second home to me. It’s familiar and it’s friendly. The people here are kind and helpful and I have never felt uncomfortable here. As you come to be more familiar with it and where you are, it feels more and more like home. After I went on vacation and flew back to Beijing and was driving back into Shijingshan, I could feel the relief and relaxation of being home after a long journey. Something I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel living in China. It really has become a special place to me and a place I love to call ‘home’.

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