First Few Days in Beijing: What Am I Doing at My Grandparents’ Place?
I’ve been staying at my grandparents’ place since I arrived in Beijing. The last time I came to Beijing was two and a half years ago, after my high school graduation. It was weird when I arrived here five days ago because everything seemed so familiar but so unfamiliar (this makes sense to me). It’s so good to see my grandparents too. They are so cute! These days have been super chill—a long nice rest after exploring Tokyo and Seoul for 11 days non-stop.
How bad is the air in Beijing?
The first three days in Beijing I had fantastic air. The AQI (Air Quality Index) was around 100 when I arrived. It was so nice and sunny outside that I even jogged around my grandparents’ complex every day. The fourth day, the AQI was in the 200s, which is considered bad air. There were no more blue skies; when I went outside, it was all gloom and grey. Time to exercise at home!
Last night I checked the AQI and it was 398! If the AQI is over 300, it is “hazardous,” the highest level for AQI.
I was supposed to go out with an auntie today to some of outdoor flower show, but because of the air pollution, my grandparents urged me to stay indoors. It’s so funny because sometimes in Vancouver, I don’t want to go out because it’s raining; in Beijing, people don’t go out because of the air, haha!
I looked out the window a few times today, and the few people I saw weren’t wearing a face mask. What?! You’re supposed to wear a mask if the AQI is over 200. Well, when I went out yesterday I could breathe fine, so I guess people think that if you aren’t having trouble breathing, then you don’t need a mask. Truth is, you can’t feel yourself breathing particulate matter but it gets into your lungs and it’s detrimental to your health if you are always breathing in polluted air.
I’m going to wear a mask no matter how dorky it looks. Health is important!
It’s already reading break at UBC and you haven’t even started school yet?!
The school semesters in China are a bit different. Our Christmas is equal to China’s Chinese New Year. In China, first semester ends in late January, and second semester starts in late February or early March.
This year, Chinese New Year is on February 19th, so I start school on March 2nd. I hope that all my exams are on the last day of classes so I can be done at the end of June and do something afterwards (either doing my first co-op or more travelling)!!!
In the meanwhile, I have one more week at my grandparents’ in Beijing, and then I’m going to my dad’s hometown Binhai for my niece’s wedding—my dad is the 7th of 8 children so his sister’s granddaughter is older than me—and then I’m moving into my dorm at Tsinghua University at the end of February.
What exactly have you been doing at your grandparents’?
I’ve been spending a lot of time with my grandparents, duh! I also go out sometimes but not for long.
They watch a lot of TV so I always hang out with them in the living room. Half the time I’m watching Chinese dramas with them, and half the time I’m on my laptop or reading. One of the reasons I wanted to come to China for exchange is to improve my Mandarin skills (I can speak but not read or write well). All their TV shows have Chinese subtitles, so I can read along and try to learn some words.
On my laptop I’ve been doing the usual, plus researching Chinese history, finding fun places to go in Beijing, and figuring out which air pollution mask is the best. When I’m searching for things to do in Beijing, I always feel funny. I feel like I’m a tourist in my own hometown, haha. I was born in Beijing but I moved to Canada when I was two years old.
I’ve been to a lot of the tourist attractions like the Summer Palace, the Great Wall, and Tiananmen Square, but I feel like this time will be different. After traveling for a bit on my own now and because I’m older, I’m interested in the historical and cultural significance of all those tourist attractions. Before, I never cared about those things and just wanted to have fun and buy tons of cheap stuff. I think I’ll go visit all those places again, but with a different mindset.
Also, my cousin is going away for a few days to his dad’s hometown so he needs us to take care of his cat and frog. I’m having a blast with them (mainly Bobo the cat)!