Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Closed and unpacked

My first issue went to print. And I didn't shed any tears in the process. I think that's my great triumph of the month, and I take heart that no issue will be as tough as the one that's behind me. Still, I think I'm too close to it to feel any real sense of accomplishment.

I'm in my new place! This is the nicest place I've ever lived (parents' house excluded). I live on this leafy, little two-lane street and my compound is neighbors with the Russian Embassy. My room faces an interior courtyard, so get this: when I wake up in the morning ... all I can hear is birds. I've never lived anywhere in China without street noise. This is truly incredible.

The architects are great. Both the two I'm living with and also their group of friends that just moved across the courtyard. I'm a little bit in awe of them. We're all about the same age, we're all working really hard and for not that much money, but they're working on these landmark projects that will one day define the places where they'll be built. 
I also like listening to them at dinner because they're always talking about space in terms of how people use it, which reminds me of my mom (also an architect). She sometimes talks like that.

I unpacked the last of my bags last night. I packed quinoa in the same box as my sheets, a bunch of pans and a load of other stuff. The quinoa burst so I had to pour delicious whole grains out of several pair of shoes and scrape it out of the pages of my Madame Chiang Kai-shek biography. I brought way too many books to Beijing. But I always bring too many books everywhere. I brought a lot of random things that probably aren't necessary, but it was nice to uncover a photo cube with pictures of my brothers (I was going to leave it in Shanghai - too heavy - but Jess convinced me to take it). I also found a couple of drawings from my English students in Taiwan - they'd been forgotten in a side pocket of my big backpack. So now I have a bit of art for my room. 

A week from today I fly to Taipei! I bought my ticket yesterday. I'll be there one week. It was almost four years ago that I moved there and it's been almost three years since I left. I can't wait.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Week Two Down

I finished week two ... like a boss. I wish all I had to do was "talk to corporate" and check email. Having my own bathroom would be pretty sweet too, but then they don't even give me toilet paper, so really my job is nothing like that song. Except for checking email. That mess takes up half my day, I'm hoping the deluge will recede once I have, uh, staff. Staff will be nice.

I have social plans this weekend! I don't really know any of the people I'll be socializing with, but for my soon-to-be roomie whom I've met once. The big thing everyone is doing today and tomorrow is watching the European Cup. Soccer-watching is just the cross we expatriated Americans have to bear time to time in order to integrate. At least there's always beer.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I think I found a place!

Master bedroom in a sweet pad that faces an interior courtyard off of a two-lane street (i.e. quiet!!). The bathroom is huge and has a glassed-in shower. There's a nice big living room with new white floors and a kitchen with modern fixtures. Hollah!

The other two guys are twenty-something architects, one American, one Italian. I'm still looking at one-bedrooms in case it doesn't work out, but I'm hopeful. It ain't cheap, but the same amount of money for a single only gets me an old building, possibly with a five-story walk up, shabby furniture and a bathroom without a shower, i.e. when you wanna wash yourself the whole bathroom gets wet. 

The people who are about to move out are also a bunch of architects (apparently there are a lot of those in Beijing). The girl who is currently in the master bedroom painted one wall lime green with a white stencil of a buck. It's funky cool. That bunch of architects is actually just moving to a different unit in the same complex and my prospective roommates are already talking about big summer BBQs in the courtyard, which sounds awesome to little old friendless me: Architects! Accept me as one of your own!

Cross your fingers for me!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Beijing, Day 6

It's Saturday. I moved on Monday morning and this is the first time I've had to catch my breath. All week it was get up, work, go to sleep. Today I ran around looking at apartments, which is also stressful, but not quite as rapid-fire as the office. For every single lunch and dinner this week our sales manager paraded me around to meet all her big clients, which means I think I've eaten in just about every luxury hotel in town. Every meal was huge. The other night I had a 118-kuai burger, the patty was wagyu beef ground shortrib. Good Lord. Afterward I came home and looked at myself naked in the mirror (big mistake), looked like the alien life form was ready to burst forth.

Work is really busy but I don't feel overwhelmed, or perhaps each day I feel a little bit less overwhelmed. I used to really bitch in Shanghai because our office wouldn't buy paper towels for the bathroom. In my new office we have to bring our own coffee and toilet paper. No joke. Everyone keeps their own role at their desk. Whatever.  A couple years ago I would've been shocked (shocked!), now I just kind of roll my eyes and carry on grumbling.

Apartment hunting in Beijing is depressing. You get way less bang for your buck than in Shanghai. I'm determined to live within biking distance from work and work is really central which means I'll pay fatty stacks just to get something shoebox-sized that doesn't have a totally grotty kitchen or a bathroom that looks like a set piece from one of the Saw movies.

Since today is my first free time, it's also been my first time to feel homesick. Change is tough. Everything was such a whirlwind before leaving I never really thought about missing Shanghai. I have such great friends down there. Goodbyes were relatively easy because almost everyone said "oh I'll definitely be up to Beijing in the next six months," but for the few who - bless them - told me I'd have to pay them to visit Beijing, and maybe not even then (one of my self-employed consultant friends simply refuses to take work up here). I'll miss my life in Shanghai. I'll miss my neighborhood, and my friends and my Chinese teacher and my ayi and Sundays in the French Concession and TV nights at my wonderful, cozy, spacious apartment where I lived with my best friends. I walked past a movie theater today and felt like crying because I never go to movies without James. He's in Halong Bay right now with my BFF Jess. It was supposed to be the three of us this summer. Oh well. I'm not too cut up about that. I try not to be.

But don't worry about me, loyal readers! (Read: Dad and Aunt Sue). I've already met a lot of nice people, friends of friends, and everyone is kind and helpful. I've already found things I like about Beijing. The people are friendlier than in Shanghai, there's a different energy up here, a lot of art going on and it'll be an adventure getting to know it all. Now I'm off to dinner with my favorite monied Chinese nationalist. She always has great stories.