Day 8 - Chinese Bureaucratic Rigamarole

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Today is the day when I have to be processed. Let the bureaucracy begin! 

Within the first 30 days you’re living in China, you need to register with the Government and get some sort of paperwork. The paperwork takes approximately 20 days to obtain, barring any problems. Given that I arrived during Chinese New Year, the offices were closed until today, cutting out 7 of my days. Fingers crossed, but things seem to be going smoothly at this point.

First stop: Hospital… because the Canadian health check I provided them wasn’t good enough, apparently.

Day 7 - Valentine’s Day and Single Dogs

Coffee and Insanity - Start the Day Right

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Hey there, sleep, glad to know you haven’t fully abandoned me. That’s right: I finally slept 8 unbroken hours. I woke up thinking about Mandarin. Last night, I felt like the language wasn’t coming fast enough. I feel like I should know more by now. The idea that I’ll never be able to speak it crosses my mind.. but then I reminded myself that I haven’t even been here a full week yet. Actually, given that it’s a week, I think I’ve made decent steps, capable of having extremely basic, functional exchanges.

It’s Valentine’s day, and we considered just staying in the house the whole day, but the idea of going back to Maan Coffee to get a Belgian waffle was appealing enough to get us out.

Day 6 - Four Generations Under One Roof

Check out 'dem Chicks
Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Again, I wake up early. My nap carries me over to 8 hours total over the past night. I realize that I haven’t written the festival at all, prompting me to drag myself out of bed to write. If this keeps up, it will be quite strange because I’ve never consistently kept a normal 12-8ish sleep schedule.

Day 5 - 10 for 20 at the New Year Festival

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Good (2.5 Mountains)
Bad (No Mountains)
I’m starting to keep track of the level of smog using the mountains I can see from my apartment. As I stated in yesterday’s post, there are a maximum of 3. Each day, I will list how smoggy it is based on how many mountains you can see. The more the better! Here we go:

Smog Level: No Mountains

Today is Day 5 of the Chinese new year, which means that there’s some sort of festival going on. Shimou made plans with her Cousin, Si Si [Se Se], to go. We meet Si Si and her Fiancé at the subway station.. which we arrived at by cab. Cabs are ridiculously cheap here, by the way. This cab ride was a 5 minute ride and cost $2-3 CAD, and a 30 min ride will be about ~75 RMB, which is $15 CAD. We're talking standard cabs, which are still more expensive than Uber.

Day 4 - Pancakes at the Zoo

New Year Decorations
Thursday, February 11, 2016

That middle bit? There should be
three mountains there.
I’ve been sleeping on concrete. My shoulders and neck are yelling at me, and it’s 5:30am. Again. This means I’ve slept 3 hours. Hoorayyyy. The couch in the living room is more comfortable than the bed, so I move in there to see if I can catch some more sleep. I couldn’t.

Instead, I ended up reading a lot of comics on Marvel's insane reboot of their universes. Very entertaining. They basically get to take whatever heroes they want and throw them into whatever situations they want, and kill them whenever they want. It really  makes for better stories when you aren’t afraid of throwing a fan favorite away at any time. Taking a page from Mr. R. R. Martin, eh?

Day 3 - Kumquat Tea and a Brazilian Man

Trees Live Inside Maan Coffee
Kumquat Tea
Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

5:30am. Again. I wake up, and not the sort of groggy "roll over and fall back asleep easily" kind of waking, but more the "spring awake and jump out of bed" kind. This would be good if I didn't crash, hard, everyday around 12pm-3pm. The plan today is to avoid naps while doing stuff in town so that I can fall asleep earlier.

We went to “Jin Ding Xuan,” a middle-of-the-road, decently priced restaurant that’s open 24h. Shimou said it’s primarily good for when you’re drunk after the bar. The food is what I expected it to be - foreign, but not crazy outlandish with few seemingly healthy options. This may be because this place is something like their fast food. I'd recommend the Kumquat tea, and Sichuan-style Wonton soup if you go. Fair warning: Sichuan province is known for its spicy food. In this case, it made my mouth go numb, but not in a painful way. I liked it!

Day 2 - First Full Beijing Day

The Mall
Tuesday, Feb 9th, 2016

That bed is like a brick. You can feel the springs just beneath the thin layer of cotton encasing it. I like a firm bed, but when it’s so firm that your shoulders and hips hurt from laying on your side...

I woke up at 7am, though my alarm was set for 9. I figured I should let people back home know that I’m still alive, since I hadn’t yet. I took a crack at the VPN issues that seem to be blocking me from connecting. VPNs are Virtual Private Networks that allow your computer to access content as if you were in a different country. If you’re in Canada, this is a way to watch US Netflix, and if you’re in China… this is a way to access the internet as we know it in the west. Facebook, Google (including maps and translate), Youtube, and Blogger are all blocked, so it’s pretty essential that I figure this out. Oh, but Yahoo isn’t. What does that say about Yahoo?

Day 1 - Destination: China

Monday, February ~8th, 2016

Well, after all that struggle, today was the big day that I finally made it on a damn plane to China. In total from inception to take-off, it has been about a 16 month struggle to find a job, gather my documents, ensure they arrived (the same document was lost in the mail twice ($65 CAD), and rejected once ($550 CAD)) and were accepted by the Chinese government (they don’t like Canadians applying from Australia, apparently), receiving the documents on the Canadian side, going to the visa office in Toronto (twice), and somehow pulling everything together within a week of the visa being granted.

Baggage Claim in Beijing Airport
In short: It’s been a bit of a struggle.

Hitting Eject

Look before you leap they say, while others suggest Leap and the net will appear.

"Haste makes waste" is thrown around while "those who hesitate are lost" lingers.

"Follow your dreams; follow your passion" they often say, but when you aim for something less conventional, you'll be met with a chorus of "be practical." How can it be both? After all, how are we to achieve our dreams or passions if our time is spent merely surviving?

Overcoming Social Anxiety

It took me a long time to recognize that I have some degree of social anxiety. Not recognizing it may have helped me. Without the label, I just saw it as a personal trait that I could work on and develop. Had I been formally diagnosed, there's a chance that I may have been medicated and left it well enough alone.

It may surprise people that I have social anxiety, as I go out of my way to put myself in uncomfortable social situations (sometimes). To put it in perspective: I refused to go to clubs during the entirety of my life until I was in my final year of undergrad. Even now I feel a tinge of anxiety if we have plans to go to the club - and this is after I've forced myself to overcome that fear for years.

Simply put: Fear is a liar. 

It distort things, and make you feel like you should avoid new situations.

Here is the progression that helped me expose those lies.

3 Things I Learned in My 20's

Canadian Winter

A friend of mine asked me what advice I would give to people entering into their twenties. After some consideration, I came up with the following guidance:

1) Stay Hungry, Naive, and Open

When trying to get ahead in your twenties, it feels as though the naive optimism drains out of most of us as we near the end of that particular decade in our lives. To many, it seems like an inevitability that we will be worn down by the daily grind. In many cases, that's true - but it doesn't have to be.