9 September 2008 2008 nian 9 yue 9 hao

Lifelog: Still Settling In

Two years have passed since my last entry on this website, but not a lot has changed. My job is the same, even though the office has moved to the other side of town, and we have moved into a new apartment close by in Tiaoqiao North Community. Yuxiang and I are still a couple, and since our wedding last October we even have two marriage certificates to prove it (one certificate each, which is how it's done in China). And Beijing has two or three new subway lines, thanks to the recent Olympics, but is still a transport nightmare.

I'm surviving here. Indeed, I'm surviving quite comfortably. And so it might seem a little ungrateful for me to say, life in Beijing is not everything I dreamed it would be. Or at least not yet...I still have hope, because even after all this time it feels like I am still settling in.

During my last three months in Qinghai, back in 2005, I posted a series of "artlogs" (October, November, and December) as I searched for a little bit of art and culture. I found some, but not much. Beijing, much as I expected, is very different. There's not just something new happening every day, there's lots happening every day. At the moment I only get information on events from one source, a weekly newsletter from the Beijinger which arrives in my mailbox every Friday, but even that's overwhelming.

Yet despite that — or perhaps because of it — Yuxiang and I only manage to get out and see a show or a concert or an exhibition about once, sometimes twice a month. And even then, it's always a last minute decision. It's certainly not because we've planned it, and actually know what's going on in this crazy city. I'm ashamed to say that tourists who have been in Beijing for a week often know more good venues than I do!

Of course, missing all this wouldn't be so bad if we were out chatting with friends over roast duck and green tea, but even that doesn't seem to happen very often. Making friends in a new city is always hard, but to be honest I don't keep in very good contact with old friends either, such as Li Qingtao and Tie Cheng. When the city's so big, and everyone's so busy, it's such a challenge just finding a place and time to meet.

Having said that, it's a bit hard to claim that you are socially isolated when you're married or living with a partner — Yuxiang and I often go out for a meal together on the weekend, or chat at home in the evenings, so as individuals we don't actually lack company. But I'd like to know what's going on in other people's lives too. If only I could manage to (a) meet with somebody I'm not married to, and (b) watch an event that's not on YouTube once every weekend, then I think I would be satisfied.

As for the other five days of the week, I'm still settling into work as well. When starting a new job, you have to plan on a few months time to learn the ropes, but even after two years I have to say I'm still struggling a bit. I'm also getting tired of Beijing's unofficial standard 9-hour office day, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. But work is a big topic, which I may write about again in detail one day.

Despite all these complaints, I still like living in Beijing, and there are opportunities here which I wouldn't have anywhere else. There are simply some changes which I'd like to make. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to make them, but I'm certainly going to try.

Recent news:

What's Tianqiao North Community?

We live in Room 203, Unit 3, Building 5 of Tianqiao North Community. We're on the second floor, which is convenient, although unlike other places where I've lived this building has a lift. That's because there are nine floors in total, and in China usually any building with more than seven floors will have a lift.

As you'll see from the satellite image below, I live most of my life within 500 metres of our home. Even though CHAIN's office is so close, a couple of blocks to the south, I usually ride my bike there. Yuxiang, on the other hand, generally walks, or gets a lift with me. The route I take to the office, marked by a dotted line, is not the shortest. I originally started taking this route to avoid passing the local police station, because at that time I hadn't registered! I'm "legal" now, but I still ride this way out of habit.

Once or twice a week I go in the morning to buy meat and vegetables from the outdoor market, which is hidden away within the hutongs to the north. "Hutong" is the local word for those narrow alleys that run through the simple single-storey dwellings where poorer families, and nowadays migrant workers in particular, live. When Tiaoqiao North Community was built, about 8 years ago, it replaced a swath of such dwellings, with the previous owners being allocated new apartments.

Not visible in the picture, but not far to the east, is the Temple of Heaven, one of Beijing's largest parks.

Hi Todd,... news from DLU...
John Bass has moved to Tasmania; Emma Brook and Stu Fuller are now Mr & Mrs Fuller and they were in Beijing during the Olympics... Stu was officiating at the Triathlon event.
Diana Rosman
25.09.2008 , 18:15

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