I recently started a job; YES a real paying job here in Beijing. Getting from here to there has never been a question before; I just did what I needed to do to get around. But now; the options and choices are not as easy to come to a simple conclusion. Not discussing money, cost, or amount of money I don’t have; there are many options for getting around in the city. You can choose to drive a car, or actually hire a car and personal driver, hire a taxi, ride your bike, walk, hire a bicycle taxi (ren li che ~ my personal favorite), subway, and of course the bus. But, finding the way to work on a daily basis, what do I choose?
I can honestly say I have tried them all. There is not one that is better than the other, just different; the timing, the cost, the atmosphere, and the “hidden” cultural exchanges and opportunities to experience Beijing by. Below are two very different transportation adventures of mine since starting my job.
Getting to work (from Dongzhimenwai to Dawanglu) takes 20 +/- minutes by my trusty bicycle, 30 +/- minutes by taxi (depending on time of day and weather), subway is about 40 minutes, and the bus about 40 minutes. Time wise, going by bicycle is a much better way to travel. I get much needed cardio exercise; breathe in valuable minerals and “tasty morsels,” all the while taking in the sights and sounds of Beijingers going from one place to the next. I also get to play “chicken” with the different buses, other bicyclist listening to their iPods and not paying attention, and dodging the taxi’s that dart from hidden alleyways. I really love riding my bike to work. I just hate being sweaty and looking like I have been riding my bike and not the taitai that I want to look like.
This morning was my very first time riding the city bus solo from home to work. I had the best time! I took bus #117 and hopped on in front of my compound. The bus was PACKED, not unlike the subway in the morning, so I was fine! First “laowai” moment was when I could not figure out where to swipe my card when getting on the bus. The lady bus driver got a little impatient for a moment, and got up and swiped my card for me. Where was the sign and arrow saying..hey..Foreigner…swipe here!!! Of course I felt like everyone was looking at me and giggling, but no..they weren’t.
I rode the bus, and watched how the route worked. It was great! I don’t have to walk to Sanlitun any longer! The bus (#117) goes right by there and there is a stop! How convenient! The next milestone was Tuanjiehu, most everyone got off the bus here, and I got a seat. I pulled out my knitting and started on that while watching out the window and listening to the driver yelling in Chinese at all of the other stupid drivers in her way. I did not understand a single thing she said, but got the giggles anyway. It was just how I would sound if I was driving. Other people started to giggle and watch me as I giggled.
One lady even tried to chat with me in Chinese. I had to promptly reply “Wo de zhang gua hua bu hao.” She smiled and nodded. She then tried (I believe) to show me a different way to hold my yarn and knit. It was a great ride. Listening to the driver, listening to the automated voice announcing all the stops in Chinese and in English, and watching people getting on and off made my 45 minute commute the best ever. Capping off the great commute, the stop I was waiting for is right in front of a Starbucks! Oh, the little things like a good soy caramel macchiato to make the start of my work day fantastic!
Moral of my little story is: try and try again! Everyday, every activity is full of opportunities to try something different. Trust yourself, have a subway card, it works on the buses, too! Smile, and welcome the opportunities of the unknown. You will find yourself free of boredom and mundane commutes; and you will definitely have a great story to share with a friend or two.