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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Taking a Moment

Hey guys,

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

Taking a Moment

Here I am, back in Beijing and thinking of Thailand. I haven’t written anything about Pattaya or the beaches. Reasons for not doing so? I guess it felt more something for myself. Sometimes, it’s nice to do something just for yourself. I will give you a very quick resume of my days in Thailand at the beach.

Wake up – Breakfast – Fairy to Island – Rent a scooter – Travel all over Island and to different beaches – Hiking – Eat local food – Get a Thai Massage (real one, no fake stuff here) – Repeat.

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It was a very easy-going time and I didn’t do anything but enjoy every minute of it. I didn’t do anything too exciting besides some hiking and rock climbing. “Wait, aren’t you a social butterfly?” one might say. It sounds like I went full on solo here. Yes. Yes I did. Why not? It’s okay to fly solo from time to time.

What about the city of Pattaya? I barely saw it. I did go walking on the reputable “Walking street”. Walking StreetBy reputable, I mean the famous street where you have a lineup of gogo bars, strippers, lady-boys, prostitutes, “Thai massages” (the fake ones here…) and other more than uncomfortable sights. Some might say “YEAH Man! Sounds awesome!”, while the rest will think “Argh, men. Disgusting pigs.” Well, sorry to spoil your fun here. I walked there during the evening because the city is dead during the day. And I’ve never felt so uncomfortable in my life… Heck, I never felt more turned down in my life either. A street where the main objective is to arouse travelers turned me completely off. Weird, I know! But I’m really not looking for that while I travel. Only thing I’m looking for are those moments of absolute peace. I don’t know if you heard of them.20170707091859_IMG_1984

Let me tell you about those moments. They are more exciting than any one-night stand, more exhilarating than those fake Thai massages. That’s just my opinion you would say. But these moments happen from time to time when you travel, or sometimes even back at home, but it’s harder because life seems to take you over. I lived a couple of them when I was on top of a mountain, or after I just ran for a while and I have to stop to take that moment in. It’s not related to accomplishing something like climbing a mountain or running. It’s related to a state of mind.

I’ll tell you about the one on the beach (present tense describes it better. Read as if you are living it).

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“Just as I’m watching the waves rolling in, time slows down a little. The wind blows slightly fresher then the warm humid air. You hear nothing but the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. You don’t think of anything. Your entire body is dedicated to absorbing this exact moment as you have chills on your skin. Your breath slows down as to not break this balance, but you breathe deeper. It lasts but a few seconds. Your hair rises on your skin and a slight fear creeps in. The thought of never having such a moment again creeps in and give you goosebumps. So you take it all in. Every hearth beat of it. And just as you release your breath, the magic brakes. Time is back to normal and you would wish to take it back. But you can only hope for another one.”

I might not do entire justice to how I live these moments and some might describe them differently, but it’s as close as I can get. For those that lived them before, they know what I mean. A lot of the people that know about them spend the rest of their lives chasing them down. They are never ending travelers and they inspire the rest of us to “live the moment”.

Dragriffin out!

Today’s item on the list:

  • Do something solely for myself.

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Challenges of the Vlogger

Hey guys,

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

Challenges of the Vlogger

As some of you readers know, I’m also hosting a vlog to complete this blog. Or more like, I have this blog to give a deeper experience to my vlog (video blog) on Youtube. Posting on Youtube from China is one of the biggest challenges here because of the Great Firewall of China. (See what I did there (>.<)…). The main platform I want to work on is Youtube. So if you have any comments on the videos or even on this blog, let me know through the channel and comment section on Youtube. Same goes for suggestions of things you would like me to try or if you have any questions about the project or my life as an expat/traveler.

Now let’s talk about the vlogging. It’s all pretty new to me and I’m facing a couple of challenges. IMG_1774The first one is the staring of people on the street. I’m not sure if it’s related to culture or if it’s normal. But mainly, people stop, stare and even turn around to watch me pass by. (I saw you!!! We all see you through the camera!). So I’m working really hard on the art to not give a f*ck about the surrounding and concentrate on the video.

Second challenge is based on the fact that I like walking around while talking and shooting my videos. Now here’s the thing. Normally, it’s not a problem. But in China, walking around is an art that requires attention, concentration and even some “spider sense”. Why? Well, traffic is insane. In the sense that the lights are suggestive and the sidewalks are like the road, they belong to all, including motorcycle and scooters. And basically, everyone tries to get in front of the other. They all go slowly enough to avoid dying in an accident. But seriously, going out for a walk is like playing the indie game “frog” where you try to cross the road without getting squished. Only you’re not crossing. You are just walking on the sidewalk. And when you get to a crossroad. Well my friend, it’s every man, woman and child for himself! So that ups my challenge when shooting videos outside.

IMG_1777Final challenge is basically the topics or subjects. Whenever I start shooting, I don’t have a precise topic. It’s a “daily vlog” (more or less daily). Therefore, I don’t know if people seeing it are like “yeah! This is awesome!” or more like “The f*ck did I just watch?”. I just head out into the world and see what comes at me while I explore. I’m still shy when people start to talk to me when I film so I immediately stop the camera. But I will try to stop myself from doing that. The interesting part, I believe, is the interactions with people that I have. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m also learning to edit, add music and put everything together as I go, I do hope some people enjoy it. I know it’s still clunky and it needs a lot more expertise added to it. It will get there with practice and your suggestions. Heck, I only have 8 subscribers at the moment. But I’ll give it my all for them anyway. I really enjoy doing this a lot. Always wanted to try it, but I had so many excuses not to before. I never considered myself as someone interesting. But if 8 people are willing to see my videos, I’m already amazed and thankful! So thanks to those people!

Today’s item on the list :

  • Start a vlog (no surprise here kids!)

If you like the blog, support it to keep it going!

 

My Life as a Baby Expat

Hey guys,

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

My life as a baby expat

So what happens after the mountain climbing and the life changing decision? That’s the big question one should ask himself. I agree, I might have made a spontaneous decision and that’s why I use “baby expat” in the title. I’m learning things as I go. And there are some consequences to that. Like, now that you made the decision to stay, you need some basic stuff to get through life. Like a place to live, food and probably some work to pay for all of this. Right? Right… It’s not all flowers and roses kids! So after the mountain, I came back to Beijing for a couple of reasons. (besides the Peking Duck)

First off, I have met a group of expats and got the chance to live with them (yey, roommates that speak English!). IMG_1433 So finding a place to live was the easiest part of all this. Although please note that it’s fairly expensive in Beijing to rent out a room or an apartment. A lot of things are cheap, like food and clothes. But when it comes down to renting, you’re competing with a couple of million people. Therefore, the apartments also look like a dumpster with windows. Seriously, I don’t want to sugar coat things here. I just want to be truthful. And even with my roommates being so nice and helpful, our daily challenge is mainly to wrestle with the cockroaches for access to the kitchen. And sometimes, we lose. It’s called eating out. These little f*ckers are quite stubborn. Can you do something about it? Nope. They come with the rest of the building. Old, decrepit and full of nonpaying cockroach tenants. If only they paid their share… And with the average rent cost, these guys should be walking with bling if they don’t need to pay for rent. So long story short, I got a place to sleep at and maybe cook some regular food every now and then.

Second reason I came back to Beijing is as simple as “the bendable laws out of necessity”. What is that? I just made it up to describe the situation here in Beijing. People need something. They desperately need it. And they are willing to look the other way to make it happen. Man, it sounds shady! But it isn’t. The Beijingers here have two priorities. Their work and their child (or children for the lucky ones). They also want to have the kids learn English. That’s why there are many, MANY jobs for foreigners to teach English. IMG_1488Do you need to be a teacher to start off with? No. Do you need a degree? Bachelor preferred. In what? Whatever, just as long as you have a BA. How about your English? Be a “native” speaker. Which basically means being from either Canada, US, Australia, England, Ireland. That’s how they define “Native”. South Africa is also accepted, but recent laws make it harder for them.

So I can be a teacher now… For kids. Why would anyone do that? Well, as an expat not knowing the language, culture and anything at all from this country besides the taste of dumplings, it’s pretty much your only option to get some money while you start learning the ropes. People I met tell me it’s not a stressful job. But kids are kids and you are basically acting like a parent. So it takes a toll on your energy.

All that being said, you also need a working visa… For whenever you have the time to do it. Remember the “bendable laws of necessity”? Well that’s where it happens. Schools, training centers, EVERYONE hires without even looking at your working visa, if you have one or when you will have one. Most places will assist you in getting a work visa AFTER you’ve proven yourself. Otherwise, why waste time? You need to hear this right. You get a job with children, without any other background check, confirmation of valid papers or anything at all. You just need to look like a foreigner and be good enough in English so most Chinese have a hard time understanding you. I know, it’s pretty weird. But there’s such a need for it, that they are willing to bend laws to make it happen. But note this, even if Beijing is a big city, reputation means everything here. If you are found out to be a weird creepy guy or have a background of sexual assault, you will disappear into the night. Not jokes here!

What about me?

I haven’t started working (yet). I prefer the legal way. But it seems I’m of a rare breed because no one cares. The rare times the police bust a place for valid working license, they basically release you right after while telling you, “get your papers”. And there’s a hefty fine to pay, by the school. So having a job here is a joke. You’re not a CEO, you’re not a director, you are just a teacher. Probably making more than a lot of directors because you’re also a foreigner. You have no idea how many times I heard this. “It’s easy for you, you’re a foreigner and look like one”. IMG_1644First time I ever felt that as a foreigner, I have an advantage. It’s sad to say, but I never got that back in Canada. Weird name and such seem to make people uncomfortable back home. I always had a hell of hard time finding a job back home. And I don’t lack in competencies. And then, I come to this country, China, where as a foreigner, I’m better received and through a couple of conversations, I already got some offers. It’s not always like that all over in China, but that’s the feeling you get in Beijing and part of the reason I came back here. Let’s see where this whole new chapter of my life will get me!

Dragriffin out!

Today’s item on the list:

  • Eat as many dumplings as humanly possible (28 is my number…).

If you like the blog, support it to keep it going!

 

Here, enjoy the sunset until next time!

It’s a Whole New World

Hey guys,

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

It’s a Whole New World

I’ve already been here for 4-5 days. I really have a hard time telling because of the time difference between Montreal and Beijing. And two things hit me. First was the jet lag. It’s nothing like those 3 to 5 hours’ jet lag. This was the whole twelve ours jet lag. And it hit me like a truck full of pillows. Seriously, I kept falling asleep in the middle of the day, while walking. If you check my latest video TRS Part 3, you can see how deeply tired I am. I look like a tanned zombie. Who knew you could have one? So that was the first thing.

Second thing is, well, everything! It’s really the first time in my life that I’m left with such a cultural difference. It starts with the signs and posts. Normally, you would find some familiarity through Latin letters. Although there’s a lot of Latin letters and English translations, on a day by day, it’s a whole other story. You can’t recognized the words, because you have the Chinese characters drawings instead. Evidently, I’ve been ordering food by pointing like a child to the board that has a picture of something edible. But when it comes down to the detailed menu.

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This is breakfast…

 I tell you ladies and gents, I just randomly point at something and hope for the best. I’ll admit it, it’s a great way to discover new food. But I do have the feeling of playing a food style Russian roulette. Exciting, isn’t it?!

So far, I had great food. I even went for the shady street food stand with some people I met. They told me this is very local, but not very healthy. It was good. Here’s the dialog of how that went down:

Dragriffin : “What is it?”

Chinese friend number 1 : “I don’t want to tell you.”

Dragriffin :  “But I like it. It tastes great.”

Chinese friend number 1 : “I still don’t want to tell you. Let’s say it’s animal parts.”

–End of dialog. I still finished my plate. It was good! What do you want me to tell you?!–

That’s basically how it went. Food Russian Roulette. I think I really wanted to get that whole “traveling tourista” thing that everyone keeps talking about. But nothing. Digestion is peachy, for those wondering. More details? Nah, I didn’t think so.

Besides food, this place is a place of extremes. IMG_0792Sometimes you have these beautiful architecture and Ming Dynasty palaces, sometimes you have the old decrepit abandoned cars and houses that look like if it was the worse part of Ethiopia.

You know what I mean, the channel where they keep showing you starving kids in shed houses. It’s close to that, depending on where you are.

So, all in all. It’s a strange place, it’s a place of extremes, but not boring a boring place.IMG_0900 I got to already meet some expats, all with their own stories. Like Ana, who’s from Ukraine. She’s didn’t come to China because she really wanted to visit, but given that there’s currently sanctions on the country, she can’t really go to Europe, neither the US or Russia. She ended up here, in Beijing. Starting anew. There are quite a lot of people hear starting anew.

I also met an Australian who, after being ripped off by his partner, is also starting a new, from scratch, at 55 years old. I’m amazed at how people can sometimes just land on their feet again when life pulls so much crap on you. Cheers to those amazing people, I say!

Dragriffin out!

Today’s item on the list:

  • Try new food, regardless of what it is! (Food Russian Roulette anyone?

If you like the blog, support it to keep it going!

Reconnecting

Hey guys!

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

Reconnecting

Last time I wrote to you guys was a week and half ago. Yes, I know, it’s been a while and I want to let you know I’m alive. I’m better then alive, I’m awesome. (Please review article on my road to awesomeness, haha!).

So, it’s been a hectic week with a mix of work, conferences, conversations, planning, eating and dancing. You know how those conferences are! You don’t? Oh, well I’m sorry then. To make it short and sweet, we basically meet up with a lot of people, some we know, some we don’t. Then, we have a variety of conferences in between which we get in touch with all those people. We share ideas, last year’s highlights and what’s coming next. It’s great. Doesn’t it sound great? It is, I swear! You might think it’s a leisure ride, but we are hard at work and after work, well, we are hard at party. Which makes the following day even more challenging.

All these meetings happened in Victoria, BC. I’ve never been in Victoria and most of the people I met on the street or working there seem to also be from outside Victoria. People seem to visit Victoria and end up living there. You know what? I get it. It’s a beautiful place, you are close to so much nature and it’s nice and cozy. IMG_0720.JPGThey seem to have little to now winter either… Except this year. Heck, I think everyone had one crazy winter this year. To come back to beautiful Victoria, I almost ended up staying there myself. Well, I thought about it and how it would be to live there. It’s not a bad lifestyle. Food for thought. I even went for a 10k run. Yes, an official one that I registered 10 minutes prior to them closing. I beat my own personal record, so I’m guessing I must be on the right track to somewhere. Right?

Through those meetings, I also get in touch with people I haven’t seen for a year. Basically, since our last meeting. It’s really something to meet up with them, share your last year story and reconnect with them. IMG_0460So many things happen in a year and it always make me a bit sad that I can’t get to experience more of it with those that I met through the years. People always come and go. Sometimes, even love comes and goes, although we somehow still hope it will last. I still hope too. But life will let you know how it will all go down.

Through this week, I also had the pleasure of meeting Patricia. What, you don’t know Patricia? You should. She’s a darling of an old lady that sees the future, through the bottom of a beer, with amazing dancing moves. I laughed. We all did. She told us she had just found out she has leuchimia and no desire to fight back… We stopped laughing. She didn’t and she told us we shouldn’t either. She wants to celebrate and have fun, so we better have fun with her. So, we drank and danced with her. What an amazing person.

I met quite a bunch of colorful people. From the Indian lady handing me a homemade chilly and calling me “Love” with a British accent,

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to the rocker that never stopped playing and telling people they have great smiles and they shouldn’t lose them. Maybe you should try and talk to strangers more often. Open your world and break the narrow view we develop through routine and daily life. It might make things lighter and give you a different perspective.

In the meantime, I’m reconnecting with myself as well as old friends. And that counts for a lot.

Dragriffin out!

Today’s item on the list:

  • Running an official 10k under 50 minutes!

If you like the blog, support it to keep it going!