Dealing With China’s Changes

Since I’ve been in China, I came to accept that things change constantly. It’s part of the ongoing life here as well. One day you have your favorite baozi place, the next, they are tearing down the whole block to make way for God knows what. This is very applicable in most people’s daily life here as well. I recently finished one of my big contracts and had to decide what’s next. Cards Against Humanity, Playing Cards, Going outI still have other smaller contracts as well, but I reached the limit of what one can do with limited Chinese. I have been getting by quite well ordering pijio, jiaozi, baozi and the occasional jianbing here and there, but on a professional level, it won’t make much of a conversation. Following the suggestion of both friends and contacts, I ended up sitting down on the school bench yet again and thoroughly learn Chinese.

Was I in for a treat… 5 classes a week, 4 hours each and about 2 extra hours of homework/practice on a daily basis. Hard to work at the same time. It was not an easy decision, but I’ve been told it was a worthy investment for any future endowers.  So how does learning Chinese go about? Well, I’ll be honest. The language is so different, that it feels like being a child and relearning to pronounce words and sounds. And here, the correct sound means everything. Keep in mind the following information. There’s 4 tones, 21 initials and 35 finals (36 if you count er ). And all of these need to be pronounced well enough (especially the tones) to avoid creating awkward situations. For those that know me well enough, I’m what you would call tone deaf. The last thing you want to see me doing is singing. (I hear some of you laughing just thinking about it). You can imagine how things might be going with my Chinese classes.

Wait, don’t panic yet! I’m honestly not that bad. When you apply yourself to something, you end up doing it well enough at some point. You just need to try. And for me, learning Chinese was not just going to school because my parents sent me there or anything. It’s more because I wanted to learn it and get the chance to have nicer conversations with local people.Old Man Smiling, Happiness, Talking with Locals A lot of them are quite interesting and they’ve be nice enough to tolerate my “zhe ge” and “zhe ge”(which basically is like pointing on something and saying this).

Shifting sands is not only about finishing a contract and learning Chinese. It’s about adapting in every situation to all ongoing changes. Some are quite local, but some are elsewhere in the world. Friends get married, have kids. People move away, new people arrive in your life. And sometimes, you also feel the gap growing between you and people that are far away. It’s the life of an expat. I was talking with a friend that just got back home after several years. And she told me that she found out how many people and friends she lost along the way and how many she can’t connect with them anymore because they changed, and she changed. Those are the shifting sands.Taking Pictures, Coffee Shops, Discover Beijing

What about me? I do worry too. It’s normal. But somewhere I get the feeling that everything is going to be alright and that my loved ones are just around the corner. Sometimes, it’s just best to not overthink things. You get better sleep, you stop worrying about it and surprisingly, you discover that a lot of time, you’re the only one overthinking it.

Dragos out!

Today’s item on the list : 

  • Eat Donuts! I know, it’s weird in China, but I found out there’s a Dunkin Donut here so I helped myself…

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How to Find an Apartment in Beijing

As part of the life of a real expat, you sometimes need to look for a new apartment. It’s a bit my situation. I currently do live in an apartment, but as you might know, I share it with roommates and cockroaches (Or Tommys as one of my roommates so affectionately calls them). Am I moving because of the cockroaches? No. Having your everyday friendly Tommy saying, “Good morning!” and “Have a nice day!” is the closest thing to a girlfriend I can have now. I don’t mind them all that much. 20170715_161752I just wished they also did the dishes or moped the floor… But Tommy only likes to eat and have sex. Almost like a cat, but without the cuteness. Hence the cat picture instead of a close up of Tommy.

Why am I moving if I’m in such a close relationship with Tommy? Well, the landlady is selling the place. I doubt she will sell it anytime soon given that most of the people visiting the apartment tend to try running as soon as they open the door. (It’s a hell hole…). I will not talk about the permanent pool we have in the bathroom and the little black worms playing “Marco Polo” in it. I won’t talk about it!  Regardless of all that, she’s still trying to sell the place for the whooping total of 7 million. RMB. You heard me right kids. 7 million… That’s two million $CAN. You should see the potential beyond the layer of horror! That sh*thole is still $CAN 2 M…IMG_0899 “Good luck!” I would say. But instead of gambling on it, I decided to start looking for a new place. At least, to prevent the worse and who knows how long my relationship with Tommy will work out?

So how does the hunt for an apartment work here? Well, you can use thebeijinger.com website, the foreigner “go to” for everything from work to finding an apartment. Or you can use the many groups on WeChat that publish new apartments. There are a lot of places. Where’s the problem? Well, you need to try to find an apartment without agent fees. Agent fees?! Yes, I said the same thing. You have all these agency that manage apartments / rooms. The agent fee is usually the price of a month. Then, you have to pay a deposit (usually a whole month) and then, a lot of places want you to pay every 3 months. If you’ve passed your elementary math class, that’s 5 months worth of rent you have to pay the day you move in. Insane! IMG_0816Completely mad! Some pay it. But a lot are looking for those apartments rented directly by the owners and where you only pay the deposit and, with some luck, monthly rent.

Isn’t rent cheap in Beijing? Nope! That’s where everyone can get f*cked quite well. Rent for a room goes anywhere between 2000rmb (that’s $CAN400) up to 5000RMB (that’s $CAN1000) for a room. A ROOM! Then, for a whole apartment like I used to have back in Montreal, in another life, it can go up to 15000RMB a month. That’s sick! But given that Beijing is the city with the highest salaries in the country, it’s also an opportunity for those that own a place to make money and pay for their own place. Everything else can be very cheap. Transport, food, restaurants, bars. But apartments are like a battlefield. Therefore, it’s in that context that I must think about finding a new place. Time to put my helmet on and go to war! “I WANT ONE THAT’S TOMMY FREE!!!” 4k… damn… maybe I’ll settle with some Tommy’s after all.

Dragriffin out!

Today’s item on the list:

  • Eat some awesome ramen! (When your kitchen scares you, you go out to eat!)

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Scooting Around

Hey guys,

My name is Dragriffin and welcome to today’s topic:

Scooting Around

As some of you might know, I got myself a scooter. Nothing prestigious of course. Your regular electric scooter with the cliché stickers all over it. I look like a genuine hipster riding this little guy (or girl. I don’t know if my scooter has a sex, don’t care either). Why did I get a scooter? Not because I’m lazy. Maybe a bit. Coffee shopBut mainly, because it’s really nice to explore a city by bike and/or scooter and get to nice coffee shop like the one I’m in right now. I’ve been biking quite a bit through Beijing on one of the many different available bike companies all over the place.

Beijing is the first city that feels to me like an actual biking city. You can go anywhere by bike and the city was nice enough to put as many bike lanes as there are roads available. You heard me right. Beijing is a city that actually thought and invested in their “biking” infrastructure. Yet why is it still so polluted? Well, if they didn’t invest in it, I can only imagine how much worse the traffic would be, as would the pollution be. But I got tired of biking. Simply because regardless of my shape, covering enough distance in one day was not enough for me. I wanted more. Aren’t I an ambitious little man. Wanting to explore the city more… Big dreams here!

So I bought a scooter from my leaving roommate for the huge amount of 500RMB. She’s a girl. Why do I mention this? Simply because she was the one to put on all those stickers including a “No fat chicks” sticker…

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Therefore, I’m clearing my name from any potential sexist accusations. Don’t worry, I’ll take it off eventually. When I think about it… But here’s the thing. Most people here just don’t know what it means… And THAT makes the sticker funny. Because here, no one will ever read it, understand it and do something about it. My friend sent me a picture of a girl (kid) with a t-shirt saying something along the lines of “You Fuck’n Asswhole” in huge letters. HUGE! Don’t believe me? Pictures don’t lie.

Moving on from the “lost in translation” funny jokes. I now scoot around (is scooting a verb? It is?! But it doesn’t mean what I thought it did…I’ll use it anyway. You get it.). And while I scoot around, I also get to experience the life of drivers… Oh God… Whenever I get on my scooter, I feel like a daredevil. Risking my life and doing all kinds of tricks to avoid cyclists, other scooters, cars, buses, trucks that basically all drive in their own little world. Chinese people are excellent drivers because they drive slowly. 20170725_185014My motorcycle classes back in Canada have never been so useful. Hard breaking and avoiding surprise obstacles are a common thing here. You don’t need a license for an electric scooter here. They can still go up to 60km/h. It’s dangerous, yet exciting. I understood so much about drivers here. Lights are a suggestion. You go when you. If not, you can wait as much as 8 minutes at light. I’ve experienced it. Have you ever seen those documentary about ants where there’s a gazillion in a colony walking over each other? Well, that’s Beijing driving life. I get to cover a lot more distance, visit nice places and sit down in a nice café and work on articles such as this one. But yeah, it comes at a price. (Don’t worry mom, I’m careful! Kisses! What helmet?)

Dragriffin out!

Today’s item on the list:

  • Get a motorcycle and explore with it(I know, it’s a scooter, but close enough)!

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