Friday, June 5, 2009

Beijing Week 1: Getting situated

I have traveled to many places such as large cities like New York City to small rural villages in Cambodia. So what was my first impression of China (well specifically Beijing), it was “WOW.” Beijing is best described as just one very large city that does not seem to end. Even the cab drivers here get lost. To tell you the truth I was hoping to find some traditional looking buildings, street vendors and just the whole city swarmed with people, instead I find this city that is a lively metropolis with fancy restaurants and shop. Maybe it’s just my first week here and I have no completely explored Beijing, but that was what I first saw in Beijing.

So what was my first week like in Beijing? I would say kind of hectic in trying to get myself situated in the city and figuring out how to get from one place to the other (whether its walking, subway, bus or taxi). I don’t speak Chinese, and I am Asian. So the locals here think that I speak Chinese, but they were not too surprise to learn that I can’t speak the language. As a way to get around, I walk around the city with a dictionary. I’ve tried speaking- but my pronunciation and tones of the words is horrible that the locals here just stare at me. My solution: I just point at the dictionary and my map. It works out well. Not to mention, their public transportation is AMAZING! The subway system is great. Although it is kind of complicated to take the bus because the signs at the bus stops are only in Chinese- so I could not tell where the bus was going. But once you are inside the bus, there are signs in English.

I was fortunate enough to go a rural mountain village with a group of Vanderbilt college students with Peking University. It was interesting to see how different their lifestyle is from the city. I’ve learned that the government is helping the village in terms of technology advancements, along with providing the children transportation so they can go to school.

Likewise, I was in China during the 20th anniversary of the Tian’anmen Square. I did not get a chance to go there. However, I felt the government’s efforts in trying to control the situation. My access to certain Internet websites was blocked and there was nothing on TV here about it. It is one thing to read about it in the United States, but it is another thing to experience it. Regarding government regulation of the Internet, this blog that you are reading, it was sent as a word document to the States. Because I did not have access to the website.

Overall, I am happy that I survived my first week in Beijing. I’m sure that there will be many more adventures and learning opportunities in the weeks to come while I’m in China.

- Manith Hang

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