Riding to church on the subway and home from church on the bus.
We live in the very southern part of the Haidian District (a part of Beijing). We’re very close to the boundary with the Shijingshan District and actually really far away from where most of the stuff is in Haidian District. This neighborhood is between 4th Ring Road and 5th Ring Road west of the downtown part of Beijing. If you look at a map of Beijing, you can see that there are roads circling the city center working there way further out.
We are within walking distance of the subway (Yuquanlu). We are also within walking distance of at least two grocery stores (CSF and Unimart), a variety of restaurants including McDonald’s, KFC, Yoshinoya, Dairy Queen and Subway. We’ve seen delivery bicycles for Dominoes and Pizza Hut but haven’t figured out the website yet in order to order pizza. There’s a nice mall (Wanda Plaza) one subway stop away that also has a grocery store (Carrefour). We are around the corner from two French-inspired Chinese bakeries (Wedome and Auspicious Phoenix). And for some reason, we can also walk to two other locations in those chains. Walmart is a very long walk (3.3 miles roundtrip) or a shorter bus or taxi trip. Taxis won’t pick up a family our big. The buses are a little more difficult to figure out since they don’t use Pinyin and the drivers don’t know any English (nor to taxi drivers).
Most stuff on interest to westerners is on the east side of downtown Beijing (northeast, really). That’s where the embassy is and where most westerners live. With that comes a lot more markets and restaurants catering to westerners. Church is on that side of town so when we are over there we see a lot more foreigners and a blonde head now and then. On our side of town we stick out. B’s school does have a lot of foreign faculty so we aren’t too out of the ordinary. And we’ve all been surprised by how well we get buy with little to no Chinese. And we’re often spoken to in broken, but understandable English by the staff at various stores and restaurants to try to help us. Or the employee helping us will frantically go get the one person working right then that knows some English. 🙂
Our third day in China (arrived late Friday, unpacked and grocery shopped Saturday) was a Sunday. We’d contacted the branch president for the branch we thought we were in (turns out we were wrong) and he gave us the information (complete with a flyer to print out with directions for how to find church and directions written out in Chinese characters so we could get a taxi if necessary. We left early (around 7am) in order to make the long subway ride (two transfers, three trains) to church. We arrived early. It took about an hour and 20 minutes and we’d given ourselves two hours. Over the summer, two of the English-speaking branches are combined because so many families return home over the summer and so many of the men are traveling for work. Our first Sunday was also the day that an English-teaching group loosely associated with BYU-I and another BYU associated group were attending our branch for sacrament meeting. It was packed. The branch meets in a high rise building just east of downtown Beijing on the 4th floor. There are 3-4 Young Women (even after summer ends, the youth stay combined). Princess Sparkley (just turned 12) and Buddy (10) are in the same Primary class. I think there are only 4 classes so they are greatly combined.
Contrary to what we thought, Squirt HATES the train ride. The fellow passengers have been really nice and generally give up their seat so I can sit down with Squirt on my lap. They also love him and I can see the reflection of their phones as they take pictures of him. 🙂
A great variety of bikes, scooters, mopeds, etc. B says that if your scooter is electric, it counts as a bike and only has to follow bicycle laws so they’ll go speeding past you on sidewalks and in alleys, etc.
Also near our grocery store is a children’s store full of baby items, toys, clothes and I think a toddler arcade-type play area.
Our favorite of the French inspired bakeries. Wedome. They have pretty good sliced bread (but the loaves are little), bean paste bread, baguettes, garlic baguettes as well as a variety of little cookies. They also have French Moon Cakes that are good. The regular Moon Cake we tried was disgusting. Their French Moon Cakes are a tiny tin with a jam or cream cheese-like filled cake in it.
Bean Paste Bread. It’s sort of like a cinnamon raisin bread might be except the flavor is sweetened bean paste crushed up, or something. We try not to think about that too much. But it’s a sweet bread with added sweet bits.
Here’s Squirt in his new Ikea chair enjoying some bean paste bread.
B’s school has a large campus that includes a soccer stadium, basketball courts (a gym with swimming pool that is under construction) as well as our apartment building, student dorms and the classroom buildings. And also a museum of the school’s history (which is military related).
Our trip to Walmart. B’s school gave him a very simple map of the neighborhood basically showing where we were, where the grocery store was, a few restaurants and Walmart. We tried to find Walmart with B one day but the maps sort of gave the impression that it was right in the block it was drawn in, or possibly that it was just in that general direction. The kids and I decided to try to find it once B started having meetings. It ended up being a 3.3 mile roundtrip walk. B and I took a taxi back a few days later to buy our rice cooker.
Can you see where it says Walmart? Tricky.
It wasn’t everything we hoped for, basically just a larger version of the neighborhood store we already had. Not much added. When B and I went back for the rice cooker we also got a soccer ball for the kids and a few other things that we hadn’t been able to find elsewhere yet, but overall, not too impressive. Still just a Chinese grocery store. Nothing special catering to westerners.
The walk back to our apartment. I took pictures of some of the street signs so people could see how crazy they are.
Another interesting thing about Chinese street signs. In the United States when you stop at an intersection the sign facing you is telling you the name of the cross street you are stopped at. In China, the name on the sign facing you is telling you the name of the street you are driving on and will continue to drive on if you keep going straight.
Princess Sparkey and her new owl bag with Bobby Joe (a keychain Playpus her Cousin G gave her to explore China with).
I should note that our immediate neighborhood feels safe. The grocery store closes at 9pm. There are small vendors, shops, restaurants, hotels, and bars on our street that are open later so there are always people around. There is a gate to get on campus (mostly we think to keep vehicles off campus) with guards. This isn’t actually unusual, there are guards on most smaller streets just keeping traffic to a minimum it seems.