Tag Archives: Smog

Portrait of a Beijinger

17 Apr

I’ve come to realize that I am a city-dweller; I am accustomed to the quirks of a city. I’ve grown to love the relationship I have with it. I’m not talking about any city; I’m referring to none other than beloved Beijing. I’m a “Beijinger”, let me welcome you to a morning of my life.

April 5th 2012, 8:00am

I take a deep breath, press the safety release button on my complex door and step outside. On my way to work; I am ready for another day in beautiful Beijing. I have become a part of the English-Teaching fad, teaching at one of the many English-Teaching schools or businesses in Beijing. Beside the school where I work there are four other English-Teaching facilities each located on the same floor of the mall.

I hear music floating from the park where the elderly are dancing or practicing Tai chi. They are calm and focused while all around the city commences its hustle and bustle.

An occasional call offering services for welding and the cry of a baby mixes together to form an odd, irritating sound that grates upon my ears.

I walk down the street; an old fellow plugs one nostril, bends towards the side of the road and blows. Some would grimace at this sight, but on a typical day I expect to see it. I stop by a nearby stand and order a sandwich with an egg, a leaf of lettuce and sausage. The woman behind the stand smiles and holds up four fingers. Where else could I get a filling breakfast for only four kuai? Taking a bite, I glance at the sky. The smog doesn’t even seem too dense today.

I take another bite. Mmmm the wonderful taste of grease in the morning. There is nothing quite like it. A short man, with hair jelled to add at least five inches to his height hums as he walks past me at a quick jaunt. For a brief moment I try to walk like him but the novelty soon wears off and I decide to walk at a normal gate.

A portly woman sitting on the curb offers me a fake ID for 10 kuai and I shake my head, wave my hand to show objection. Nodding, she props up her overweight baby boy and that’s when I get my first baby-butt view of the day.

I reach the bus stop, throw out the bag, shove my hands in my pockets and wait. A parade of people drive by on electric scooters, peddle and electric bikes. A few stare and I smile in return, then my bus arrives. The door flips open and I press my transit card to the receptor. Beep.

The smell of mixed body odors, gas and heat smacks me in the face. I used to wrinkle my nose. I squeeze in beside a short, stern-faced, middle-aged woman and soon after two more stops the bus is so full that I don’t need to hold onto the yellow strap for support. The passengers are each other’s brace against impact. Soon I’m being compressed and compacted in ways I don’t even know how to describe. I used to roll my eyes; pretend I was in a place with at least an inch of space.

Arriving at work, I rush to the elevator and realize as soon as I reach one that the person inside is already pressing the door to close.

Am I surprised? No. The thing is that I’m used to it now, and if a day goes by when none of the above happens, I’m out of sync. There are other things that happen, not necessarily in one day, but throughout a week that I’ve just come to accept as part of my life in Beijing.

I’ve surrendered to the city; become a dweller of the bright lights. I’ve become what is known as a “Beijinger”. You are too you know if you do the following. I’ve compiled a running list; it reads as follows:

You know you’re a Beijinger when…

1. None of the snot-shots smog-fog, baby-butts or compression on the bus bugs you in the least. You’ve come to expect them.
2. You look forward to a greasy, egg and sausage sandwich for breakfast.
3. You expect the elevator door to close on you.
4. You wake up early just to join the elderly in the park with their tai chi and dancing.
5. You add “er” at the end of everything when you’re talking to a taxi driver.
6. You’re still disgusted at all the spitting in the streets, but you’ve started doing it your-self.
7. You’ve developed the Beijing Lung.
8. You do your shopping on the street, trucks and electric bicycles for food and random racks of clothing for your daily apparel.
9. You sit on your haunches because you’ve fooled yourself into thinking it’s comfortable.
10. You don’t think its quirky that the graffiti in the toilet stalls is significantly lower down for obvious reasons. In fact if you hadn’t read this you probably would never have noticed.

Although some of the above are not what you would call well-bred qualities to attain, nevertheless they have become what make me a “Beijinger”. Of course there are more quirks, other qualities that make an ex-pat a Beijinger. But I’m leaving those for you the reader to fill in if you choose to do so.

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