Things have started to become familiar now. School is good, the food is good, my apartment is good. Yesterday I successfully took a taxi to pick up a package at the post office. I chatted a long while with the taxi driver, which feels like real progress since previously I’ve had serious difficulties understanding what the taxi drivers are saying. After being here for a while, a few things seem to come up more often than not:
- Do you speak English in Sweden? It’s hardly strange that Beijingers don’t know, but I still find it a little amusing that so many think that English is Sweden’s official language. I recently learned that Sweden actually doesn’t have an official language.
- 瓦尔德内尔 (Wǎěrdénèiěr) J O Waldner, the Swedish ping pong player. A lot of people seem to know of him. I’ve heard that he has a bar in the embassy area here in Beijing.
- 啊，这么高啊！ “Woa, so tall!” Especially children say this. I pretend not to notice.
One thing that is less than cool is the massive amount of security guards, surveillance and the like. Gated communities are the norm for the middle class (I live in one). Trying to walk in the general direction to where you’re going will often fail because there is a brick wall stopping you. There are cameras everywhere and every building has someone sitting in a room watching it all.
Of course this is all for our “protection”, but it feels quite uneasy since the thing it protects us from is all the people who have nothing. Not only is the gap between rich and poor very big, the poor are also very poor. There are often beggars on my way to school which isn’t exactly what I’m used to. I hate it when they thank me, I shouldn’t be allowed to decide if they live or die, shouldn’t be thanked. It’s very easy to become cynical about it all, and I don’t know if it’s really any use giving them money. Nothing I can do makes me feel “good” anyway, and my pity is utterly useless.