Haidian Daily Life

Now it’s nearly three weeks that I am back in Beijing. I’ve moved to my own apartment in the northwestern Haidian district, home of the most important universities, a three-room in a lively, old-style neighbourhood – not Hutong, of course, but a 70s-style compound with some 20-floor high rise and plenty of smaller apartment buildings, some shops and a lot of community space and green in between. It’s a place where everyday life is very visible, with street vendors selling barbecued mutton skewers until late evening, people sitting outside repairing bicycles or playing chess, as long as the autumn days are mild enough to allow for it.

My exercise routine brings me to a community playground every other day, where the authorities have installed some simple but efficient and colourful gym equipment during the pre-olympic days. Here I can practice my pull-ups and do a little dry-rowing. (On the other days I’m working hard on the “100 Push-ups” goal.) Often when I go there, some old ladies with their grandchildren show up, young and old alike eyeing me with friendly curiosity.

Like during my last stays, I’ve set up my ‘office’ in two nearby cafés. One belongs to the fake-french, Korean-owned pastry shop chain “Tous les Jours”. It’s a noisy place, they are permanently looping through the same terribly stupid maybe 20 R&B tunes. But coffee and pastry are good, so I put up with the acoustic pollution (a very common phenomenon in Beijing anyway). After having had my breakfast I walk across the street and change to “Bridge” Café, a bigger and much more sophisticated restaurant, with subdued jazz music rivalling the sound of the coffee machine and the clatter of other behind-the-counter work. Here I order a mug of Wulong tea, which will be served with frequent refills of hot water and thus keeps me some more hours into the day.

Both places are treating to foreigners more than to locals, it’s language students mostly, with a high ratio of Koreans in “Tous les jours” and many Americans in Bridge (they can be as noisy as the R&B music in TLJ). Both provide free wireless Internet access. So, with a window seat, my tiny notebook computer and my chinese mobile phone, some piece of paper and my pen in front of me I got all I need for work.

Afternoon and evening hours are normally reserved for meeting friends or interviewees, or going to talks or performances. Sometimes I’m joined by the chinese assistant I’ve hired for helping me with research and translation, a very bright and sweet student from China University of Communication. We are talking about current media blog entries, or she’s helping me with my spoken language exercises.

So, that pretty much sums up my daily routine. There will be more to be told about more specific experiences in the next days – like this evening, for example, when I’m going to visit the German Embassy’s reception to (belatedly) mark the national holiday on October 3rd.