Day 152 - Life In China

Friday, July 8th, 2016
162 AQI

Typical Day in Beijing as a Foreigner

I step onto the  elevator. Two elders comment on my height - in Chinese, of course. Different from usual, they try to engage me - in English! We have brief conversation which reflects ones I've had all over the world. How tall? Basketball? We part ways on the first floor, echoes of their height discussion chasing me.*

I walk along the small square-tiled walkway as motorized delivery scooters whiz past. People of various ages linger, sleeping on benches, chatting in the sparse shade, or carrying parasols to protect from the sun as they walk. The air is thick with smog today, hitting around 162 AQI. The environment would feel like a ghost town, if not for the crowds. 

Stares follow me wherever I go, sometimes openly, mostly veiled. Out of my peripheral vision, I can see them more obviously turn after passing me and forcing themselves to stare forward, peeking out of the corner of their eyes. 

My jaywalking skills come in good use, skipping between traffic on the 2 lane side street. The divider in the middle makes a good stopping point for the more timid crosser. On the larger streets, there's the option of foot bridges. 

At the gym, their spin room is closed off from the rest of the AC, window open. Sometimes the locals will open windows on really smoggy day. The theory, so I've been told, is that they think outdoor air is cleaner than whatever is built up inside. Hello pollution and humidity, how welcomed you are on this 35°C day!

Walk back, drenched in sweat, people eyeing me up about the same amount as when I was dry. It’s a long walk, so I cut through the world’s 2nd largest mall because they condition the air - and so I can condition myself not to care that people are seeing me at my worst.

The sun is scorching, despite the gray veil that falls over the sky. My tattered shoes often lose their grip on the tiled walkways that someone has recently dumped water on. Many of the tiles are chipped or simply missing. Rows upon rows of bikes sit empty, collecting pollution that comes to rest on their seats and bars. The walkways are much more crowded now. Where there had been a constant 10-20 people in my vicinity, there is now closer to 30-50 at any given time. If you have social anxiety, this will either cure you or cause hyperventilation.

I tutored for two hours, then received a massage from the usual place before meeting Shimou and relaxing in the apartment. Flipped the big screen on, blast the AC, and watching the first half of Gone Girl. Finally got around to it.

*I can’t wait until I can understand general conversation in Chinese. Right now, they’re correctly assuming that I can’t understand much, but I’m guessing that will continue to be assumed no matter what level I reach.

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]

Editing Music
Live It Out

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