I have finally figured out how to configure my VPN so I can get to this website because apparently it is blocked in China. It took forever to figure out how to work the internet here because my room seems to eat all the signal ever making it really difficult to use my computer in my room. I had to go to the internet office and figure out/play charades with the guy who does the IT stuff to get a broadband cable and then again the next day to ask him to come up to my room and set it up for me. So as of right now I am thanking God that I number 1 have internet, and now number 2 that my VPN service is working so I can have access to facebook and blogger.com.
I have to say this, Beijing is nothing like home. I initially had a problem because Beijing is such a big city and living in such a place is something I'm definitely not used to! All the noise, people and especially traffic is enough to make me go crazy but I've managed so far. I'm thinking probably about half-way through my time here I will get used to it. As for China in general, I was neither prepared nor do I think anything can prepare you for the amount of people here. Traveling on the subway is a harrowing ordeal and there are no lines. I've learned that pushing your way through crowds is the only way to get to where you need to go. I still feel incredibly rude doing it, but really, you gotta do what you gotta do. I tried to take a picture of how many people were on the one car I was in, but I'm too short to get the whole experience.
I've adjusted in many ways in the week that I've been here. I am living in a dorm room for the first time in my life and living with someone I had never met before. My roommate's name is Michelle and she's from Pasadena, California. At first I thought it was kind of awkward being in the same room, but now that we've gotten used to each other it's great! She's so nice, awesome and good at painting nails. She's said that she's targeting me next for a makeover :)
The two big issues I'm having here are the food and the language barrier. In Rhode Island I didn't eat Asian food very often, so I don't know what kinds of things I like here. I'm having difficulty finding things that are to my tastes and usually blander than the things I have been offered. Thursday morning I went outside the campus gates and found a street vendor selling something like a flaky pancake with an egg cooked inside it. The woman put a piece of pork and lettuce on it along with a bean paste sauce and wrapped it up like a taco -- sort of. It was pretty good for breakfast, even if it was a little too spicy. I came back up to my room really proud of myself that I had managed to buy something all by myself! Other than that and a few small victories buying things, I'm still hungry a lot and constantly on the hunt for things that I like.
The language barrier is a huge issue. In any other circumstance if I needed help with or didn't understand something I could always ask someone for help. Here, this is not a solution. I may have taken 1 semester of Chinese at URI, but it was nowhere near enough to get around with here. I feel absolutely helpless for the first time in my life. It's really quite a terrifying feeling. I get both frustrated and nervous when I need to interact with a salesperson or a waiter because I have such difficulty trying to get my point across and get what I need. Chinese classes start on Monday and I've been placed in class A2, so I'm sure that learning and using the language will allow me to minimize this discomfort.
I am also seeing what it is like to be a minority for the first time in my life. It is obvious that I don't belong here, and I think the people that I interact with are a little more forgiving about my lack of abilities than with the other students who are of Asian descent but do not speak Chinese well. I'm relieved that my obvious foreign-ness seems to be helping me and I have made friends with the people at nearby Wu-Mart and in the convenience store here in the dorm.
That's a whole lot of information for one entry I think. If you guys have questions leave them for me and I'll certainly answer if I can provided that my VPN and internet continue to cooperate so nicely.