On our first night, after leaving the airport, we arrived at our apartment for the first time. I was excited at how big it was, but surprised at the lack of furniture. There wasn't a sofa or place for all of us to sit down together once the other interns arrive. We had expected bedding, but found a pillow, light blanket and "cover sheet" over a mat on top of the mattress. I was so thankful I'd decided to pack my own sheets because that has already made things a little bit more comfortable. Once we unpacked our things it was past midnight, and I was completely exhausted. Unfortunately, my mind was racing thinking of the things I needed to buy for our apartment and trying to remember where I was in relation to the office and things like that kept me from getting good sleep. I'm sure that will change as I get settled in more.
The first full day went pretty smoothly. Lauren and I decided to venture outside our apartment and walk around the neighborhood. The streets smelled vaguely of urine, which I found surprising for being in a city. I would have been less surprised to find that in a rural area, but for some reason that took me by surprise. We stumbled upon a open area where there were people watching children at what appeared to be a preschool. They were dancing to music, as parents looked on and younger children bounced with the music. We noticed that infants didn't wear diapers, but instead wore these little pants with a whole in the butt which I thought was kind of funny. It looks like parents must just hold their kids over a toilet, or bush or whatever. Seems kind of risky if you ask me. After the park area, we wandered into a small market. People were selling things from clothing, nail clippers and shoes to fruits and vegetables. I think we might go try to buy some cherries and apples sometime next week.
After the market we met up with Celine and she took us to register at the local police station. All foreigners not living in hotels have to register, but I'm glad Celine was there because the officers didn't speak any English. Once we registered we met our colleagues at the office and went shopping at a supermarket. The best way I can describe the market is to imagine a very cluttered Costco. We got most of what we wanted, although I'm still considering whether we should buy an iron for our clothes and a hair dryer.
We also ate our first dinner on our own last night. We found a crowded restaurant and figured that if all those people were there it probably wouldn't hurt us. The menu had pictures of the food, but no English writing, so we had to guess what to order. The waitress didn't speak any English either so it was a lot of nonverbal communication to finally get our order in. When the noodles with what I think was pork and a dish of green string beans cooked with some sort of seasoning. The food was delicious, but I have a suspicion that I'll be ready for burritos and pizza by the time I'm ready to leave.
Well, that's all I've got for now. We're going to have a guide take us to Tiananmen Square and the National Museum today. It will be nice to have someone show us how to navigate the subways once so we can do it by ourselves later on.