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Street life in Beijing

On Tuesday night I sent emails to let people know I would be back in Beijing. When I got to my computer in the morning there were ten emails from these rather new friends, all with a variation on the message, “welcome to Beijing,” which reminds me of the proverb Frank Yu, a regular contributor to Guanxi, taught us, 有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎 (yǒu péng zì yuǎn fāng lái, bú yì lè hū), “Is it not a great joy to have friends coming from afar?”

But one of the dilemmas of cross-cultural communication arises in dealing with different ideas about hospitality. For the Chinese, it’s important to meet people at the airport. This is often because of practical concerns, but it’s also connected with the deep sense of hospitality that seems so much more powerful in cultures outside the individualistic United States. In general, I’m more than willing to go along with local customs, but the fact is that when I get off a long flight I really just want to get to my hotel and take a shower.

Tom in front of hotel near BLCUAnd who would greet us? We’re visiting many friends and colleagues, and there’s no single person who is our host. I know that Frank would have liked to meet us, but his work has taken him to Guangzhou for a few days. Someone else offered to arrange for us to be met, but Tom has lived in Beijing (in 2004, doing a language program) and I’ve been here several times, so we were quite happy just to get a cab to our hotel. Here’s a photo of Tom in the neighborhood where he lived—we enjoyed walking for a couple of hours this afternoon. It was sunny and remarkably clear, considering the smog yesterday, and we found a street market where I bought fresh flowers and fruit.

vendor-pineapples.JPGI felt more at home on the street because I now have a Chinese phone number, in my US phone. This required having the phone unlocked ($30 plus Fedex charges). It’ll not only save me lot of money (especially as I can buy a new local SIM card in almost any country) but, more important, makes it possible for my Chinese colleagues to phone and text me at cheap local rates.

beijing_street1.JPGbeijing_construction1.JPGFinally, a couple of photos that will give you a sense of what Beijing looks like today: construction near Peking University; one of the main roads to the north; and (above) a pineapple vendor carving her wares. It is the season of roasted sweet potatoes and pineapples on sticks, and I’m trying to decide whether the pineapple poses a health risk (I eat street food avidly but only when it’s hot).

I haven’t really figured out how to lay out photos in WordPress, and hope these postings will be more attractive as the days pass. But I can’t resist sharing something of what we’ve seen–and showing you that there is sometimes a blue sky over Beijing!

One thought on “Street life in Beijing

  1. Hey, I am Peking Yang, Pingjian Yang in Chinese name, a student from you mentioned Peking Uni., and I am assistant to C.S. Kiang, as well. Prof. Kiang talked several time you graceful young lady:)

    The times when you are in Beijing, if there’re something I can do, please let me know. I am very happy to have the chance to be with you. I left my email to you and my blog.

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