So, this is week 2 and I guess I have a few pointers for those that follow.
- Bring walking shoes because you will be moving about.
- Subway - this is the best and least expensive means (sans walking) to get around Beijing. Get an iPhone application or print out a map to keep for a reference because remembering all the lines and names can be difficult. You can buy single entry cards for 2 Yuan each but I suggest purchasing an RFID card that you can add funds to as needed. This saves the hassle of buying one each time you ride.
- Cabs - unless you can pronounce (correctly) where you are going, they will not understand you. So, I will usually put a picture of a map on my iPod and point to the location I want to go to. This also stops interpretation mistakes. Also, if you are alone, sit in the front. Lastly, if it looks like they are taking you for a ride, act upset - point to the number under their id card by the glove box and act like you are going to call and report them. This should cause them to apologize and straighten up.
- Get home plan - I always keep 100 Yuan in my pocket with a picture of where my home is (on a map) with me. This way, if the subway stops running (about 10:30) or I am stuck somewhere, I can get home by cab.
- Don't drink any water unless you open the bottle. I even practice this in a resteraunt (i.e., I bring my own).
- There is no tax so the price you see is the price you pay.
- Make sure you stay hydrated and drink lots of water. You dry out and become dehydrated much faster than you would think. You will feel much better when you drink lots of water (just pick up bottles at any store).
- Many things are cooked with oils here that we are not used to. For the first few, try not to go on a crazy new food binge as your body is probably not used to the oils. Mix it up with things you normally eat (yes you can find burgers and pizza here).
- Housing - this is a crazy endeavor. For the most part, you will have to find an agent that speaks english which is not easy to do (I found one by word of mouth). After that, they probably don't want to work with you because they get commission on the lease and short leases are just not worth their time. This is also true for the landlord because they typically have to travel like an hour or so to complete the lease paperwork with you (takes about an hour). Expect to pay a considerable amount more because of a short lease and also expect to pay the agent (sometimes a month's rent amount) even though the owner is supposed to pay them as part of a comission (if the rent is over 3000 yuan a month). A good place to start is http://www.thebeijinger.com/ or http://wuwoo.com/?lang=en&datatype=apartment&page=0 (I like the WuWoo better because it includes a map).
- Dining - sometimes you pay after you order at a sit down place and sometimes after you eat. Try to remember which it was when you are done so you don't accidentally walk out without paying.
- Tipping - not done here as it is seen as a judjement on the server in that their position in life is not good enough and you pity them with your offering.
That is about it for pointers for now. As for my life this past week? Well, I think I live here at MSRA. They have everything one needs to be productive. I mean, this place just clicks in a community sense. We have our work area, our productivity resources, our relaxation areas, food, excercise. and so many people happy to help out or talk about what they are working on. Great I tell you.
An example of how MSRA is an open and welcoming community is the Family Day they had this past week at the Beijing Planetarium. All the interns were there as well as family members. The theme is that we are all family (childeren and intern alike) and that we need to take care of our upcoming members so that our world will be a better place in the future. Amazing and touching it was.
While at the planetarium, I got to experience a 4d show where the images were in 3d but air and water were also used to magnify the experience. Loved it!!!