I’ve officially been in China a little over a month and finally started to feel “settled.” I have a gym (but very little time to go), Chinese classes (but very little time to study for them), I sort of understand how to pay my bills, and I’m getting much more familiar with the city, the subway, and how to call a taxi. I’ve done a tiny bit of exploring and hope to keep using my time to get to know Beijing and make friends before it gets too cold to go outside.
I have friends! I’m really pleased with Beijing’s social life. It’s a cosmopolitan city, attracting people from all over the world. The Chinese people I have met through work and outside of work have been quite friendly as well. I love my colleagues and have been going out with them pretty regularly for lunches, coffees, drinks, and other small weekend explorations. I’ve also discovered diverse social groups which I’ve boldly shown up to knowing no one. After years of moving around to new countries, I’ve found the secret to meeting new people is continuously putting yourself “out there.” It can be hard at times, especially when I’m tired from work and wanting to stay in, but it always pays off.
Last night my Chinese friend invited me to finally try hot pot, very popular in Beijing. You can order cuts of meat and vegetables and place them in your water to boil and eat them with a sauce. The food—fine cuts of lamb and beef, some sort of organ he didn’t know the name of in English and looked a bit like a starfish, cabbage, bean sprouts, potatoes, fried beans, and sesame seed cakes—was enough to feed four or five people.
Another friend convinced me to try frog Saturday night, which, after a few whiskeys, was quite good.
On Sunday, I ventured to the art district with my colleague. It was a bit cold so we spent most of our time in a nice café we found. We also found a weird Swedish art gallery.
There’s still a lot of the art district I’d like to see so I hope to return next weekend.
We also went to see Rent a few weeks ago which was amazing! More on that soon. Plus, I’ve been in and out of so many cafes and bars around Beijing and already have a few favorites.
The biggest struggle I am having right now is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Even though I have only been in my job one month, I’ve already been asked to work on a weekend and last week I stayed until midnight one night and 10:30 another. While I recognize this is the “busy season” in the office, I was literally only helping other people do their work.
I have amazing colleagues, I’ve learned so much in just a month, and overall I quite enjoy the work. The problem is just that there is far too much of it for anyone to finish in a normal nine-hour day. I was given some time off to make up for the overload, so for now, I am just seeing how things even out. For me, maintaining a life outside of the office is fundamental. Especially when it comes to health and writing. If anyone has any tips about balancing a demanding work schedule and a healthy life, I would love to hear from you!
CrossFit is really expensive here but I knew I rather have classes that truly push and challenge me than continuing to work out on my own (especially since I can only go to the gym 3x/week now). If I only have 3 hours a week, those hours need to count. I decided to try something called F45 which is an Australian workout that I’ve been describing as a mix between HIIT and Crossfit. I’ve only been to a few classes (and I am SO out-of-shape) but I’m going to see how my results are after a month. If I’m not where I’d like to be, I’ll find a Crossfit Gym but so far, it’s been a great mix of cardio and strength training.
Chinese is hard. While I am warming up to using the tones, I really can’t read the characters at all yet. It’s hard to find time to study and I only have two formal lessons a week. Luckily, there are a lot of online resources I’ve been experimenting with. One is a free series my colleague recommended to me called, “Growing up with Chinese.” The episodes start simply and gradually become more difficult and the “teacher” walks you through pronunciation, vocabulary words, and there is a real-life scenario video conversation. It’s pretty fun and decently effective if anyone wants to learn Chinese.
So far, I can pretty much just say confidently, “hello” and “thank you,” but that’s better than when I arrived.
Until next time, 再见!