First time in Beijing
We arrived in Beijing by train. The train had been 30 hours from Ulan Bator with a couple sitting around at the Mongolia/China border. Two young ladies from Scandinavia said they wanted to find the nearest subway station. So did I. One of them would go out during the train stops and run around on the platform like bees were chasing her. I think she was getting exercise. She wanted to change some money and went up some white stone stairs into a bank while her friend and I stayed with the luggage. We tried to be out of the way but people from every direction kept appearing and trying to get by us. Finally, I said to the young lady, “Have you ever seen so many people?” “I can see more people right now than live in my whole hometown!”
Her country has few people. I’m sure she was in culture shock even more than I was since I’d been there before. I do remember my first view of Beijing. I had arrived by plane and my plan was to follow the other passengers and do what they did. I had three cards that were filled out before we landed. I walked along looking to see if someone wanted to collect any of my cards. A man in uniform waved me over and took one. I looked around for the other passengers to follow. Gone. The hall was empty.
I found my way though immigration and customs and got my luggage. As I wheeled my suitcase around a corner and stepped into the hall, I was faced with so many people waiting for arrivals that I really was astounded. I stood there blinking. I began to scan the crowd for my friend who was picking me up. Lucky for me, he stood out being an American with white hair. He ushered me through a group of excited taxi drivers who nearly pulled me into a cab. “Bu yow, bu yow,” he said in a loud voice. We got to the car he had waiting and were on our way to the university where he taught and lived. I thought I was safe now. Not so. The traffic in Beijing is incredible. It looked like cars, bicycles and pedestrians were converging in the streets. I asked my friend, “Do they ever run into each other?” “There are surprisingly few accidents,” he answered. It seemed like a video game where things just keep coming at you non-stop.
We got through the baffling streets and arrived at the Language and Culture University in northeast Beijing. It was an oasis full of trees shading the wide lanes and a reasonable amount of people. My friend said, “The school is pretty empty during the summer.” There were still a lot of people walking around but the atmosphere was calm and pleasant. I found out the walled campus contained several restaurants, some shops, cafes, a bank, a laundry as well as sport fields and the school buildings. I really never had to leave the campus. But tommorrow, I told myself, I will venture out past the gate.