See also: 5 Reasons to Study Abroad in Beijing
I have now hit that half year mark. I have been living in Beijing, studying, partying and sleeping a lot for six months now. Thinking about it, it is incredible how quickly the time has passed. Looking back at my study abroad experience at UTS in Sydney, Australia this is the point where I would be saying goodbye and heading back to London. This time round, I’m a mere quarter way in my life in Beijing and have 18 months or so to go. I don’t even know what is going to happen after I graduate, recently I have been contemplating that if an opportunity arises in the future to stay here and work professionally, I may take the offer and extend my stay. Either way it’s all a little too far to be thinking about it just yet, I do like to keep my plans organized up to 12 months ahead, you never know what other ideas I’ll have after another six months.
This idea didn’t just come out of nowhere though. I must’ve grown accustomed to my daily life in Beijing by now. I’ll give the credit to the beautiful weather we have been having recently as well. Spring is well underway and we’re seeing temperatures up to 20 degree Celsius and longer sunny days. Pollution hasn’t been that bad at all. Possibly as I am feeling happier and settled here, I can look at Beijing and China slightly differently. All of my friends who were meant to return, have done so already and we’ve just started a new semester. After a very long winter break of over 2 months, it’s refreshing to see more people around the campus and around the city.
February has been an interesting month for me. Most of people I know have left Beijing for either travels, home visits or left for good. It has been quiet around the campus and more so in the run up to the Chinese New Year all across Beijing. It would be difficult to explain the difference between a normal day in Beijing and what it was like on Chinese New Year’s Eve which was 18th February.
Chinese New Year in Beijing
Chinese New Year is a biggest celebration in China. It’s as if you’ve put Christmas, New Year, Easter, all family birthdays together and then multiply it by 10. It’s HUGE! It is referred to as the biggest human migration in the world with number of people (approx.) on the move in the region of 200-300 million. Buying tickets for train, plane or other means of transport is extortionate and is near impossible if you miss your moment. The only supermarket on campus closed early in February and only re-opened recently.
Our main high street that has plenty of little shops, street vendors and markets just outside the campus of Communication University of China started closing down weeks before the Chinese New Year. So the last week before the celebrations it was deserted as if a scary scene of “The Walking Dead’ and you really had to make a trip to find food. It’s indescribable. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my Chinese New Year experience in Beijing and I will write a separate post about it with more pictures to add.
Chinese Way of Managing Situations
One rather disturbing thing happened in February that allowed me to see China from a different perspective and to better comprehend their understanding and their way life. As I was chilling with my friend in a room, we had a power cut at around 1.30am. Obviously we gave up hope that it’ll be fixed before the sun rises. Little did we know, that this would go on for 6 consecutive days! At the beginning, it seemed manageable and we were constantly fed info, in Chinese may I add, that it’s being sorted and the electricity will be on tomorrow. And then the next tomorrow. Until we had enough. I should add that this happened during official holiday season as well. We were told eventually, that the issue is off campus and they can do nothing about it. So we were left in the dark, in the cold and with no internet connection, which is probably the worst of the three. Thankfully, we still had hot water otherwise it could’ve been nasty!
Having had enough of this bullshit and poor management and communication from a Communication University of China – funny that; we have teamed up and about 15 or so of us international students stormed the international student office on the day that it opened after Chinese New Year holidays. It took us almost three hours of standing our ground and refusing to leave the office until the matter has been addressed until we’ve achieved some kind of an outcome. Handled in Chinese, by some kick ass Egyptian girls who were boss in mandarin and mean attitude, I just sat there listening to what seemed like a very entertaining situation given I do not speak a word of Chinese. All we wanted was the electricity back or at least be relocated temporarily because electricity is a basic human right, isn’t it? Even though at first they were claiming there were no rooms available in a different international dormitory (and we knew there were) after some time they gave in and we were relocated there. In a true Chinese fashion, we had to sign little piece of paper that said that as soon as electricity supply was restored we would move back immediately. I now live in that building 😛
The thing that I’ve learned from this that in true honesty, you hardly ever get what you want in China by being nice. I think bureaucracy and general laziness that seems to be, despite sounding like a generalization, a national feature. From my experiences in Beijing so far, I can tell you that Chinese people will generally go out of their way not to help you, instead of the other way round. I’ve heard a lie after lie, stupid excuses, simple no’s with no reasonable explanation and the only real reason behind this that I can point out is pure laziness. Often it’s not just lack of desire to do more than the bare minimum required, but sometimes even the tasks assigned in one’s job description. It is sad. This I come across very often, and it makes simple things overly complicated. I’ve grown tired of hearing “I’m not in charge of this”, but then no one seems to be in charge of anything and it becomes this big chaos. Like a Jenga tower it’s so flawed, but still standing, yet one wrong move and it all falls apart. It’s just you’ll still take a risk, here it seems they do not. If it’s somewhat functioning you just ignore the missing parts and put up with it. It’s not just the country that need overhaul, the culture needs it too. I shall continue exploring this and get to the bottom of it, I wonder if they’ve even heard of Jenga?
P.S. I’ve turned 26 now.
… and I have a selfie stick! 🙂