The following two stories arrived in my email box from an American friend working here in Beijing. She arrived four months ago:
My entire week really has been yucky, but today was particularly frustrating. Note that this week started on Saturday as I have been working through the weekend. At 4:00 pm this afternoon I made an executive decision and decided to treat myself to my favorite summertime treat from Starbucks. This morning, while getting my morning coffee, I noticed that this sugar filled Strawberry delight has returned for the summer. With anticipation and excitement I waited patiently for my guilty pleasure to be perfectly blended, a young Chinese women chatted me up. This lovely, American born Chinese lady from LA, arrived in China 8 years ago. Presently she heads some (my opinion) big fancy operation here in China. This brief conversation brightened my day tremendously. After the natural business card exchange I received (less than sixty minutes later) an e-mail from her connecting me with 2 or 3 colleagues in my office whom I have not met yet and invited me to an event in June relating rto my field of work. This extremely friendly and lovely young lady even works in my same complex. We will share lunch soon.
After polishing off my tasty Strawberry Starbucks afternoon beverage, and my work day was ending, I visited the young ladies room. I do not typically share this tidbit of information, but this is where this story starts: As I exited the stall, a young chinese woman with 2 large and overflowing boxes on a dolly stood hawking handbags. She obviously did not work at my office; as nobody in our office would lug boxes like this around. She sells purses, shoes, etc. Amanda previously operated a stall at the Silk market. Presently, she sells directly to the customers with whom she has relationships. I quickly learn that one of the my big bosses (I have not yet met) regularly makes purchases. She accepted my card and I hope she contacts. I believe she will be my new ghandbag friend. I Just need to provide her with the product number. She had the most awesome Christian Lubaton black open toe pumps. I soooo want them — RMB 550 — these shoes are $550 back home. As I was looking though the box of goodies she was delivering today, my colleagues were coming in and out of the restroom. Nobody really flinched or batted an eye. I kept thinking…….only in China.
Recently I spent too much time in cars in Beijing with friends. I also moved to a new apartment. My commute from Shuangjing to Liangmaqiao lasts right around twenty minutes via bicycle. During rush hour it may take two extra minutes. The subway commute may be 12 minutes from subway to subway. The car ride can take an hour each way easily because of traffic.
I bike or subway most places. Many trips in a car take quite a bit longer than even walking. The wait for a parking space, the time it takes to get into or out of a parking space, the time spent haggling with the parking attendant about the price of the parking fee, and the wait at traffic lights all add up to hours and days quickly. I sense that car driving folks in Beijing have zero value for their wasted time. I know I save hours each week by staying out of automobiles as much as possible. One lesson I learned from way back includes the phrase, “time is money,” and I save hours weekly by staying out of cars. I feel like I’m nearly alone in this thought. At least my car driving friends won’t have any part of a conversation about leaving their cars at home.
I love my bike. I love the ease of riding and parking it. I love that my commute is not affected (in terms of time of commute) by rush hour.
When describing things in my world I attempt to entertain as well as keep the attention of my audience. In describing things such as the reason I work for me I enjoy using a one word description and then elaborating on that. Some folks only require the one word description; therefore, the one word must be powerful enough. Why I work for myself can be described using the word, freedom. The political campaign that I involved myself with back in the fall of 2001 can be described as eye-opening or reassuring. Some experiences takes a lifetime to describe. The political experience description, in a sentence…. I learned who my friends are not.
Today I spend my time in Beijing. In a word I describe my experience here, “variety.” Every single day I encounter the opportunity for variety on every level. I wake-up each morning with the opportunity to eat so many different wonderful foods. I can share that with so many of my interesting and unique friends from all over China and the world. I venture out into my new world via bike, on foot, taxi, subway, or private car. What I do each day varies. How much money I spend (or don’t spend) and my encounters with everything and everyone in my fantastic new world changes all of the time. I continue to notice the differences in cultures as they all meet in this incredibly diverse community. I love love love my new world and all of the challenges as well as surprises that come along with my living in it.