Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I’m Really in Beijing

I had one of those moments this morning, where I looked around and thought to myself “holy good god, what am I doing? I actually live here!”

See, they had a “Meet the Principal” session this morning at the school. I still don’t have a car, so I looked it up on the map and decided I could probably find the school on a bike. I left the two little ones with their brand new ayi (don’t worry, that story is coming soon), hopped on the bike and pedaled off in the direction of the school.

It was hot and humid and dusty (are you starting to suspect that I will use those three adjectives in every single post?) on the road. I sped along, across the bridge that spans a stagnant river, past the Pomegranate turnoff, along the edge of a major construction project. Cicadas were buzzing from every tree. A couple of three-wheeled cars drove by. Lots of decrepit bikes. A few mopeds. I hit a pothole and almost went head over handlebars. I passed the gated park with a pond full of lilypads and a sign on the fence, something to the effect of “park for important personages only.”

After twenty minutes or so, I found the school. Then I had to convince the security guard to let me in (I don’t have a badge yet). “Ni hao,” I waved. “Ni hao,” he replied. With that, I came to the end of my Chinese, so I switched to English: “I’m here for the parent-teacher meeting.” Apparently, his English wasn’t much better than my Chinese, so he answered in Chinese. Then he asked, hopefully, “badge?” I shook my head no and explained that I still need to get a badge. He answered in Chinese, still not opening the gate. So I went down a list of words he might know in English. “Principal? Coffee? Cafeteria? Meeting? Parent?” Finally, he said “You… teacher?” I answered “No… I… parent.”

Somehow that worked, and he waved me in.

After the meeting, which took place in a dark, cool, not-at-all-dusty-or-humid private school auditorium, I hit the road again, back past the construction and the Lion Mart and the “Health and Beauty Wellness Center” and the guards and the mopeds and the cicadas. This time, I knew where I was headed. That’s when it occurred to me: I really, truly live here.


Please. Write your own stuff.