Being in Beijing as a Barbadian

by - December 06, 2019

It was my final day in Barbados and I was all packed and ready to go for the long journey ahead of me. I said my last goodbyes to my family and friends before I boarded my flight to destination Beijing. My flight lasted for 30 hours since there are no direct flights from my home country to Beijing. 
I was a time traveller for this journey as I passed through several different time zones. I was in the past, present and future of the Eastern Caribbean time zone. It’s almost as if I was stuck in some kind of revolving  time warp and the concept of time was somewhat non-existent.  Well let’s flashback to how this adventure all started.
girl attending to infant in crowd
I made a decision that would change my life and the way I saw myself and others around me and the truth is you become much more aware of who you are and of your roots when you are thrown into an environment where nothing or little is familiar. I threw myself in the fishtank and I was either going to swim or drown...
girl in front of chinese monument
Deciding to study and live in Beijing, China was one of the biggest life changes for me. Moving to a country which is far away from my home with tremendous differences such as the culture, language, food and way of life of the locals was not an easy decision to make. Nonetheless, I was very excited to start this new journey and chapter of my life.
girl holding snack in China girl holding baby in China
So, when I finally arrived at the airport in Beijing I was overwhelmed with many different emotions and feelings which ranged from excitement of starting my life in a new country to sorrow as I thought about all of the family and friends I wouldn’t be able to see for the next few years while I was in Beijing but most of all I felt truly exhausted and jetlagged from the long trip. I was nothing more than ready to ‘hit the sack’.
Mattress with pillows in dimly lit rooom
The first few weeks, I spent getting used to my new environment as there were many differences between China and Barbados. 

Let’s start with the transportation used for commuting. You would think that in a big city you’d expect everything to be extravagant but that was not the case. Thus you could imagine my surprise and intrigue when I saw the locals using bicycles to get from one place to another. No matter the social status everyone used bicycles, from the CEO of a company commuting to work to the elderly grandmother taking her grandchildren to school. 
bicycle parked in beijing
On the contrary, in my country, bicycles are used more for recreational purposes by the younger generation in our society than for transportation. Another transportation difference was the use of the Subway train to get around the city. I had never used a subway before going to China and I found it very convenient and easy to use. The subway system became my main mode of transport when I needed to get around the city. 
people on the train
For some time I didn’t try many of the local dishes offered as they looked rather different from what I was accustomed to at home, but after some time I realised that if I wanted to really immerse myself in the local culture, I shouldn’t be afraid of trying new things. To my surprise I really enjoyed the local cuisine even though it was very different from my traditional food. Some of my favorite Chinese dishes include the Beijing Duck, Hot pot and Chinese Dumplings. 

people making chinese dumplings in class assortment of asian food in restaurant
assortment of different asian foods
On another note, interaction with the locals was clearly a challenge at first as my spoken Mandarin wasn’t that good. I did nonetheless make some Chinese friends who gave me some useful information and application that would help me transform my thoughts into words in Mandarin. Life got easier for me in China after that so by the third month of my adventure there i was settled into my new environment and I was ready to go out and really do some exploring. 
girls in costumes two girls
Talking about exploring, it would be crazy of me to go to China and not visit places of interest such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace for example so I saw those and many other popular attractions in China.

Great wall of China in the distance
Whenever I had difficulties on the street finding places I would just ask any local nearby and most of the time they were always friendly and willing to help. On some occasions these friendly strangers even took me directly to my destination.  How cool is that. 

It can be understood that at times foreigners may be a little hesitant to interact with the locals because of the way they may stare at you or want to touch your hair if it looks different from theirs, but that’s only out of sheer curiosity. Some of the locals have never seen foreigners before so it is exciting for them to have the chance to interact with us and ask questions.
All in all, leaving home to go to China has been one of the most exciting and challenging things I have ever done but it was definitely worth it. Being able to experience a different culture first hand has definitely opened up my mind and way of thinking in terms of how I view the world. This experience has taught me how to function and thrive in new environments and how having an open mind can have a substantial impact on how you experience something new. So keep your minds open and take a plunge into a new culture.  
- Daniesha

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