I blinked and two months passed.
Yesterday marked exactly two months since I arrived in Beijing and began my new life. I remember so clearly the feeling of boarding the plane to come here: like taking a deep breath, preparing, a little uncertain. Now, two months in, I’ve finally let that breath out.
I’ve decided that a place starts to really feel like home the first time you leave it. Towards the end of my week in Mongolia, I found myself missing home—and it jarred me for a second to realize that home didn’t mean Long Island or Harvard. After a few weeks in Beijing I’d begun to put down roots, and once I stretched them a bit on my first trip out of China, it was especially sweet to arrive home to my apartment and feel them fall back into place.
That’s about as deep as I’ll get for now, because as the title suggests, the real point of this post is to give friends, family, and anyone else who’s been following along a peek into my life. I’ve been here long enough to develop a routine, and the little daily surprises that come with living in China spice it up just enough to keep me on my toes.
So here’s what a typical day looks like for me—a Monday, specifically, because today is freshest in my mind.
My alarm rings at 7:00AM. I try to be in bed by 11:00PM so I can pull off eight hours of sleep, but on a Sunday night that doesn’t usually happen, since I tend to stay up later on weekends. Work isn’t until 9:00AM and my commute is only five minutes, but I wake up two hours early so I can cook breakfast and spend a solid 30 mins perusing all the social media happenings that materialized overnight.
I shower and get ready with my music on; lately it’s been K-pop mixes (in preparation for my upcoming trip back to Seoul for the first time in nearly two years!) My roommates are both up and getting ready for work at this time, too, so our apartment is a chorus of various playlists + BBC News reports. Ping, our dog, noses around our rooms looking for attention; she’ll have just come back from her morning walk.
I make myself scrambled eggs on brioche toast every single morning unless I’m in a rush, in which case I’ll grab liǎng gè zhū ròu bāozi (two pork buns) and a bottled iced latte from 7/11. I have perfected Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for scrambled eggs, and you have not lived until you’ve tried them his way.
Ping will always push her nose onto my lap and beg for my breakfast, and I’ll usually slip her a bite of egg or a piece of crust. She’s still getting used to me—my roommates rescued her off the street when she was a tiny puppy about a year ago, so they’re the only humans she’s ever had and she’s not sure who I, the strange intruder in her house, am. But the key to her heart is food, so we’re getting there.
At around 9:00AM, I’ll leave the house and grab a Mobike to ride to work. The commute to my regular office (where I am every day of the week except Thursday) is just a five minute ride, and about a fifteen minute walk on rainy days. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nothing makes me feel more like part of Beijing than cycling through the city streets.
A Monday morning at work will be spent grading homework (I have 214 students and they all have weekly homework, so it’s safe to say I spend 75% of my existence marking papers) and demoing the latest lesson for our team so that I can work on revising it in time for my Thursday class, which is always the guinea pig class for each week’s new unit. The beautiful Flourish office is a great working environment; easygoing, comfortable, and collaborative.
I usually take my lunch hour around 12:15. Early on I would go to actual sit-down restaurants, but lately I’ve preferred grabbing something quick and cheap (fried chicken, noodles, baozi, or ròu jiā mó, which is basically a Chinese burger). On Tuesdays we do team lunch, which is a nice treat and a good hour for Flourish team bonding.
Every afternoon, I teach either one or two classes. On Mondays I teach one class at Jingshan School near the Forbidden City. I take the subway there, but some of my other schools are close enough to bike.
My classes are all so different that it’s impossible to generalize from just one. Jingshan is my smallest class, with only 20 students; all the rest have 30-35. They’re tenth graders and have extremely good English, but were definitely shy about using it at first. They tend to respond better to interactive, hands-on activities that have them moving around and acting things out, so I try to pull them out of their shells with those kinds of things.
It’s great because I’m finally getting to the point where I know my students, and that’s especially true of Jingshan, since there’s so few of them. I know how each acts in class, how willing each is to share their ideas, and a small bit about each’s background and interests based on the homeworks they’ve written for me. I’m still mastering names, but I’m getting better!
After teaching at Jingshan, I come back to the office for half an hour to write my Class Reflection and finish the day.
From work I head straight to Chinese class for an hour every Monday and Wednesday evening. They’re going well and I love my teacher, but I’m definitely progressing at a slower pace than I’d hoped. I don’t have a lot of time to put into studying and practicing outside of class. Fingers crossed that something clicks soon! Mandarin is hard.
Finally, I’ll bike back home to have dinner and rest. I cook once or twice a week, and I’ll have leftovers for 1-2 days after that. So far all I’ve dared to experiment with is stir fry and pasta. On lazy days I’ll heat up some frozen barbecue pork buns (my drug omg they’re so good) or make some peanut butter and jelly.
I’ll sometimes try to get some other work done in the evenings (hello law school apps), but they usually devolve into bundling myself up under my covers and catching up on Grey’s or Fresh Off the Boat. Then I’ll feel guilty about my lack of productivity until finally I fall asleep, and the cycle begins all over again.
So that’s a day in my Beijing life! I love it here, and I’m so, so happy—there’s something about this place that just feels like where I’m meant to be, and figuring out more of it every day is like the world’s coolest puzzle.
I’ve got lots coming up in the next few months: a trip to Hangzhou in three weeks, a trip to Seoul in six, and then my family visiting at the end of December! Definitely expect more updates.