Friday, July 09, 2010

San Li Tun (三里屯)

Towards the end of our travel in Beijing, we discovered a beautiful little place in named San Li Tun. This is a district that has restaurants and stores from all over the world: Turkey, France, Italy, Thailand, US, Canada, you name it, you can find your bit of foreign happiness in San Li Tun. This particular day also happened to be one of the hottest days in Beijing. So hot, that a reporter asked us to answer some questions about how expats were dealing with the heat. In the heat of the middle of the day with the knowledge that the ac in our little hotel room didn't work, we were obviously hesitant to leave our little foreign paradise. It's also an incredibly foreigner friendly place: climate controlled, western toilets with toilet paper, English speakers, no crowds, etc. While it felt so familiar in a lot of ways, I also felt a bit out of place. The foreigners who live and work in this part of Beijing are pretty well to do...or at least their pointy shoes, Gucci bags, and coiffured hair would suggest as much. At the same time though, I didn't really care if I felt in place or out of place. Who really determines that anyways except how you personally respond to the situation. If I pretend I'm a regular at San Li Tun, who's to make me feel otherwise?

Erin and I both said that San Li Tun is a great place for people who need a little break from the elements that aggressively greet you every morning in China. It's not that I don't like China, but it's tiring to live there. Everyday, every situation, is more confusing and convoluted than it feels like in one's home country. A simple example, when you go to the bank, you have to take a number and then wait for the 10 people in front of you to be helped first. You also have to watch for your number like a hawk or someone will cut in line and take your number.

Another example, while traveling in Beijing, few taxi drivers knew the place we were staying so that meant that I had to explain or show them the map. Most of the drivers pretended to understand once they saw the map, but it felt like we never took the same route back to the place where we were staying so I still wonder if they knew the place or found it by default.

Also, it's offensive to me when people stare and point. I don't think I experience it as much as some of my other, more stunning foreign friends. But even so, when I do experience it, I don't respond in a very loving way. On the great wall, I turned down two requests for my photo in a 10 minute period of time. I told them, "Everyday many people ask me for a picture, and I'm tired." Actually, people don't ask me that often, but I felt like the answer would help the people to see the situation from a foreigners' point of view. The Chinese tourists who had asked for my photo said something like, "That foreigner doesn't like Chinese people," and kept climbing.

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