I hadn't anticipated it taking quite so long for me to write my next blog post; unfortunately over the past couple of weeks or so I have been a little bit up-and-down due to a certain amount of homesickness and the realisation of just how long I will be spending in China. I think for the first week or so we were all fairly buoyed up by the novelty of being in Beijing and the inevitable 'holiday' feeling and not until after then did it hit us that we would all have to carve ourselves some kind of temporary life here. However, much as I dislike the term 'culture shock' (to me it sounds unnecessarily dramatic), I think that that was what I was suffering from and feel that now it is a period I have left behind, for the most part.
One aspect of China which I found very hard to deal with was the weather; for the first two weeks or so the temperature reached 30+ degrees pretty much every day which made it incredibly tiring to do anything aside from sitting in an air-conditioned room not doing much. Fortunately a few days ago the weather 'turned' very suddenly: Thursday had been sweltering but then that night the heavens opened and Friday turned out to be rather crisp, in Chinese terms at least. Not only has this change made life more bearable here, I think it has made this place a lot less alien to me to have some more British-like weather. One downside of the rain is that it sets off the alarms of all the electric mopeds which seem to be very popular with Beijingers. The other night whilst I was trying to get to sleep I could hear about three alarms all sounding almost constantly; needless to say after a while I was starting to hatch a plan in my mind involving hacking the things apart with a sledgehammer. Even now, with the rain not even coming down too heavily, I am relying on my headphones and the soothing music of Message to Bears to stop myself from banging my head against the wall in frustration at hearing the same shrill noise over and over again.
But less of that- I'm sure you didn't come here to listen to me whinging. With the novelty of having a temperate climate again we made our second attempt yesterday at seeing some of the sights that Beijing has to offer and took the subway to the Beijing Olympic Park. (Our first attempt, incidentally, did not go well: after going through the assault of an hour and a half on the subway we arrived at Tian'anmen Square to shortly after have to give up due to the unbearable heat and return home again.) Upon exiting the station we were suddenly hit by a feeling we didn't know we'd been missing since being in Beijing: a sense of open space. Even though the place is apparantly visited by 20-30,000 people a day, it still felt liberating and somewhat calming to be in the middle of such a vast expanse of space.
The stadium itself was very impressive; I'm still unsure about how pleasing to the eye the 'bird's nest' structure really is but it was certainly well worth the £2.50 I paid to look inside. It struck me as strange that the stadium has been relatively unused since the Olympics and the place certainly felt like something of an empty shell whilst walking around.
One thing that seemed strange at first but which I have since come to enjoy is the apparant novelty of white people in Beijing. Whilst standing outside the Bird's Nest taking photos my friend Emma and I would often turn round to find that there was someone else taking a photo of us! It took a while to get used to but we have come to realise that this fascination with Caucasians isn't anything sinister and is in fact fairly innocent and good-natured. Quite a few couples have come up to us whilst gesturing with their cameras; at first we thought that they wanted us to take a photo of them but then one of them would stand inbetween us whilst the other person takes a picture. Emma and I have also received a fair few comments telling us that we are 'hen piaoliang' (beautiful) which I imagine will do wonders for our self-esteem as time goes by! Despite our current lack of competency at conversing in Chinese, the vast majority of people here seem to be more than happy to serve a group of lost-looking Brits and everything is carried out in good humour.
A few days ago I started something which I never envisaged I would do before coming to China: running. My friend Jack is apparantly a keen runner and after hearing him talk about it I was inspired to give it a go myself and so, on Friday, he and I headed down to the BLCU sports track for a bit of a jog. I managed to impress myself by doing seven laps of an 400m track, not a lot relatively but I wasn't expecting much. This evening we went for a second run and, despite still having sore legs from last time, I managed another seven laps and next time I think I will try for eight. The feeling that physical activity gives you is just amazing and anyway, I think I need something to work off the extra calories that all this Chinese food is inevitably supplying me with.
Apologies that this post has been so ridiculously long; I wasn't expecting to be able to write so much! Zaijian folks!