Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Arrival in Beijing

I am getting settled into my new digs at the China Foreign Affairs University International Exchange Center, which is a hotel run by the university for long-term 'foreign experts' like myself and short-term diplomats or scholars here for a conference of presentation. The campus itself is very small, about a five minute walk from end to end, with only one primary building for classrooms, a library, and some basketball and volleyball courts. There is also a 'canteen' or cafeteria that runs about $1-1.50 for rice and two servings of a dish, not bad. There is also a Muslim 'canteen' that serves food halal, which I am anxious to check out. Location is pretty good, 15 minute walk to Fuchengmen subway stop, and across from the enormous Tianyi wholesale market that sells everything one could imagine; Angry Birds appear to be hot everywhere, as are the Smurfs, though they look less cuddly than I recall as a child in the 1980s.

Today, I will get my office, which word is contains only a chair and desk and nothing else. I also hope to check out the classroom where I will teach, and next week will meet my teaching assistant, whom I hope is willing to do some major photocopying of texts (shhh, don't tell the publishers.) I think I've mostly got my syllabi ready to go, and next week is the in-country orientation, which can hopefully answer remaining questions.

Beijing itself is starting to cool from the normal hot and humid summertime, though still rather muggy. After 2 weeks, the tally would be 12 smog days and 2 blue sky days, that is probably a fairly accurate gauge of the norm, maybe a bit better this fall. I'm certainly not gonna keep track. Crowds on the subway (mostly young people) continue to swell, automobile traffic is even worse. 20 million people in the city, perhaps 30 million in the municipality. Prices are certainly inflated, as are housing prices and rental prices in dramatic fashion. A 1,000 square foot condo in the city probably costs $1 million (US); rent for a one bedroom runs about $1,000 per month. A middle class salary is probably $10,000 per year. You can do the math, but upwards of 50% of income goes to housing.

Looking forward to settling into a routine after classes begin September 5, and by then temperatures should be in the low 80s and more dry, like Sacramento perhaps.