First Experiences in Beijing

Written by: Raj Lal

It’s been an exciting and busy first few days in Beijing.  My adventures started heading into the flight when I thought it would be a great idea to stay up as late as I could the night before departing with the belief that I would sleep for most, if not all, of the 13 hour flight and get over any symptoms of jet lag right away.  Seems like a decent thought to test, right? So I stayed somewhat true to the night before insomnia ploy (got about three hours of sleep and slept on the connecting flight to Detroit), but the whole sleeping the entire flight to China thing didn’t really happen at all, partially because of what seemed like an infinite selection of in-flight movies and conversations with other members on the trip. Regardless, we had hotel reservations to sort through and dinner plans later that night, so the jetlag problem was almost entirely erased on the first night anyways.

Our living arrangements

Our living arrangements

I went on a two-week study/sightseeing trip to China two years ago, and one thing that really disappointed me last time was only partially experiencing the culture. We were staying at Western-themed hotels, everything was on a tour, and we even had a few of the “western-Chinese meals” (you know, the sweet and sour chicken type food).  Thus far, it’s been exciting because for the most part, we have been living as “Chinese residents”. The hotel. The food. The shortcomings on communication with taxi drivers, etc.

Karoline (the other student from GA Tech) has been working on low-cost air quality monitors at school and I got to see how they worked (I’m really looking forward to learning about how the sensors were collecting data) and help mount them at Peking University. So far they’ve only been mounted on the roof of one of the campus buildings. It’ll be interesting to see how well these monitors line up compared to the more-expensive, often considered accurate detectors and what the data will read at ground level compared to up on the roof.

One of the low cost monitors up and running

One of the low cost monitors up and running

Worth noting, I’m starting to consider myself a resident favorite among those bypassing the main street near the hotel. I don’t imagine most Chinese-natives would confuse me for a Chinese citizen, but the people seem to be pretty friendly and patient when I practice my Chinese (I think I’ve figured out the rudimentary language patterns, but learning words has been a bit tougher). Onto my daily conversation dialogue.  I start with the casual “ni hao. Ni hao ma? (Translation: Hello. How are you?)” to which the normal response and reciprocating question ensues. But then I ask “wo shur ni da ping yo ma? (Translation: Will you be my friend?)” I’m up to (at least) four yeses and smiles, so yeah, stay tuned, it might not be too much longer until I’m famous out here.

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