Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Life in Beijing both simple and complicated

Thursday morning in China.
Ron and I are waking early just as we do in the U.S. I think you call the reason "old age." I hit the bed very early last night because I'm not used to all of the walking. We met Ken (a retired Abilene professor who is 75) and his wife, Vivian (Chinese businesswoman about 45) for lunch yesterday. They are a delightful couple with a 2-l/2 year old son. They will be returning to Texas next week and not return to Beijing until after Chinese New Year. We hate to see them leave but it was nice to get to meet them. They have been very helpful to David and Ya Ning in their work here.

Ron and I brought a sum of money from the U.S. in travelers checks to deposit in the Bank of China here rather than wire the money through the Bank of China in New York. The funds are transferred to the various workers for their use. I took a nap on Tuesday while Ron went to a branch close to the apartment and deposited the checks in his name. We stopped at a different branch yesterday for me to sign the checks in my name. This bank teller would not deposit all of mine without some kind of contract so we have to go to another branch today to finish the transfer of funds.

We took a taxi to the largest electronic store in Beijing. For Americans, it would seem gigantic. It's like a 3 or 4 story department store with booths side by side on every floor. They are independant businesses and much of the merchandise is the same. It is like a large flea market in the U.S. with consignments booths. Everyone "bargains" for the price in China (a practice I am certainly not good at). Ya Ning enjoys it and takes care of everything. Ron will have to use his skills at bargaining after today. I was about as knowledgeable in this store as I am in Home Depot. So much stuff and nothing that I need!! We bought a printer. David and Ya Ning did not have one and there are times they need one also.

David said we would come back by the subway since it was close by the electronic store. We had to made transfers on three or four different lines and each time we changed trains, there was a long walk and many steps (either up or down). After we got to the end of the line where we got off, we had a 20-minute walk to the apartment. I think we must have walked at least 10 miles and went up and down no less than 500 steps. I was really tired last night, not being used to this much walking in one day.

They say a store is nearby but to us in America, it would not be considered nearby. It all depends on where you live and how you look at the whole picture. Where we have an interstate highway (I-285) circling the city of Atlanta, Beijing has five bands of these highways circling Beijing. That's how large this city is so when you say something is nearby, it is relative to the big picture. Getting somewhere is not simple or easy.

Life is less complicated in China because we live simplier lives just as we did in the Caribbean islands. We live with very little, only buying things really needed. In America, we hoard up enough for several families and keep on buying more or seeing more that we think we need. All of the time we have lived outside of the U.S. it has been refreshing to live simpler lives, uncomplicated with so much "stuff." If you have to walk 10 miles to bring something home, you stop and think, "do I really need this that badly?"

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