Since I’ll be moving to Beijing for the next two years, I figured it would be fun to do monthly recap posts talking about the highlights and challenges of my time in China’s bustling capital (or wherever I may be that month). I’ve noticed that the more I travel and the busier I become, the more impossible it becomes to keep up with my travels in real-time. Well, never fear, monthly recap posts are here!
September has been a month of big changes. Firstly, I packed up my life to start over in China’s bustling capital. I finished grad school, started a new job, found an apartment and began making a life here.
Overall, the move to Beijing has been a good one. While my job may come with minor frustrations, I really enjoy the company I’m working for. I have a beautiful new apartment. My coworkers are awesome. I live in a decently cool area, and China Post didn’t lose all my clothes in the mail!
What I’ve Been up to This Month
I spent the month of September trying to get settled in my new home. I feel like I’ve barely explored any of Beijing in the last three weeks because I’ve been trying to get accustomed to my new life here. Apartment hunting, starting a new job and exploring my neighborhood has taken up pretty much all of my time.
My new job is pretty intense and keeps me really busy. I’ve been working from 10am-7pm, 6 days a week, which is exhausting! Technically I only need to work five days a week, but if I work an extra day I get to accumulate more vacation days. Since I’m heading to Thailand for TBEX, I figured I’d squeeze in a few 6 day weeks to get everything done before I head out.
After a few weeks of working at my new company, I have so much to say! But since this is a recap
post, I figure I’ll save all the juicy details for another day.
I spent most of September exploring Beijing’s Zhongguancun neighborhood where I live and work. This neighborhood is full of amazing high schools (hence, why I work here), China’s top universities (Bei Da, the “Harvard of China” is here), and China’s tech district. I live walking distance from Microsoft, Youku, Tencent and Sinosteel. No wonder my apartment is so expensive…
I like my job!
My job as a college counselor is much more enjoyable than teaching English to 1,000 students. I get to actually form connections with the kids, and consulting is much more relaxing than teaching. I feel like I get a lot of human interaction, rather than just spending the day staring at my laptop. Whether I’m meeting with students, collaborating with the Chinese counselors, or meeting with the other Western counselors, I don’t feel like I’m glued to my computer screen.
I also feel somewhat challenged in my current job. How do I make this essay incredible, without re-writing it myself? How can we restructure your resume to make you stand out? How can I teach you to sell yourself in an interview? What’s a cool way you can showcase your amazing artwork? Sometimes I feel like my brain is going to explode from all the creative thinking and problem solving I do every day!
My office is amazing
Cubicles are my worst nightmare. Not only are they ugly, these little partitions cut you off from the rest of the office and discourage collaboration. Thankfully, the design of my office is amazing: bright colors, open floor plans, classrooms and meeting spaces… I definitely don’t mind hanging out here all day. Many of the counselors have even ordered exercise balls for the students to sit on during sessions.
Also… we have an espresso machine. I’ll just let that one sink in for a minute. ESPRESSO MACHINE.
I have my OWN OFFICE with a view!
I was actually shocked when I arrived on my first day, and I was shown my own private office… and it’s PURPLE. My office has a large window that overlooks the city, and I’ve decorated it to feel a little more like home. Yes… that is grumpy cat. My students love him.
I actually have friends
I’ve quickly become friends with both my Chinese and Western co-workers. Thankfully, I live in the same apartment complex as three guys from the office, who I often spend time with on the weekends. I also really like my Chinese co-workers, and I have lunch with them every day. One co-worker and I are headed to a “Vintage Festival” in Western Beijing tomorrow!
I LOVE my apartment
I have a beautiful studio apartment with a large window that lets in tons of light. I’m also obsessed with my super comfortable, big blue couch. My apartment is walking distance from work and the subway, which is really nice, and it’s surrounded by restaurants and cute coffee shops.
Beijing has gotten WAY MORE EXPENSIVE
Beijing has taken gentrification to the extreme in the last 3 years. All those cheap dumpling shops where I could get dinner for $1 USD have been replaced by bubble tea chains where you can spend $2 USD for a tea fix. Seriously? Also, the subway is no longer less than $.50 everywhere you want to go, and the bus has doubled in price as well.
Compared to Ningbo, Beijing is ridiculously expensive. I find myself cringing ever time I spend 20 kuai ($3 USD) on a bowl of noodles for lunch when I could have bought them for half the price in Ningbo. Why, Beijing, why?!
The Beijing Housing Bubble
Last month I talked about my panic attack when I discovered I needed to pay over $1,000 USD for an apartment deposit on arriving in Beijing. Well… that was just the tip of the iceberg.
My office has given me a 6,000 kuai/month ($950 USD) housing stipend, which I assumed would be more than enough in Beijing. Well… I thought wrong. They didn’t even show me any apartments under 6,000! The cheapest place they showed me was 6,500 and it was dark, covered in trash, and infested with bugs. Where am I? NYC??!
The real estate agent basically only showed me apartments in the building I’m living in now, where the try to stick all the foreigners. There’s a reason why there’s four of us in this one building… I even tried to have them show me apartments in the Wudaokou neighborhood because it’s a bit cheaper, but they only showed me one place and it was 7,000 without furniture!
I ended up getting a really cute place for 7,000 ($1,100) a month, but I still think the price is ridiculous, especially considering I’m not even downtown! It wasn’t until about a week ago that I learned of all the really awesome neighborhoods I could live in with much cheaper rent. For example, one of my co-workers lives in Gulou, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Beijing, and her rent is 7,000 for a two-bedroom apartment she shares with her boyfriend. She said for 6,000 I could easily get a beautiful one-bedroom loft with free internet and a maid. Seriously?! The commute is only about 20 minutes by subway (30 minutes door to door).
My co-workers and I can’t figure out why the company doesn’t help us look for places that are under the stipend. Even my Chinese coworkers are stumped! I think they just assume that because we have a stipend, we can afford to live in a really expensive place? Maybe they just want us all right near the office to make their lives easier?
The worst part is that my rent isn’t actually $7,000 a month. It’s $6,500 for 6 months and then jumps to $7,500 for the remainder of my contract. This means that if I want to keep my apartment next year I’ll be paying $7,500 a month for the whole year. My whole apartment complex just keeps getting more and more expensive! My co-worker is currently paying $6,300 for a room whose equivalent is now running for $7,500. Seriously?!!
All I know is that when my lease expires in a year I’m moving to Gulou.
I’ve never been this broke
My expenses have been out of control this month. On top of a 7,500 kuai ($1,175 USD) deposit, I also had to pay 1,500 kuai ($235) for three months rent, along with another 1,500 kuai for internet for the entire year. While my apartment came furnished, I didn’t have any of the basics like sheets, pillows, cups, plates, etc. so I had to shell out for those as well. I still don’t have any cooking stuff because I can’t afford it right now!
Things have gotten so bad, I had to borrow money from my new job, that will be taken out of my paycheck over the course of the next three months. Not a great way to start out…
My first paycheck for the month of September doesn’t come until the 15th of October, and I’ll only be paid for 3 weeks since I started on the 7th. That’s in addition to the fact I’ll have a few thousand kuai deducted to cover my company loans.
I’m literally surviving on pennies. I have to eat cheap oily noodles, cut out any luxuries, and forgo travel for the National Day holiday. Not only am I $20,000 in dept for my student loans, I’m about $1,000 USD in debt to my company as well. I only have about $80 to my name to get me through the next 15 days. Talk about stressful! My money anxiety is actually out of control.
As I was moving to Beijing I came down with a nasty bout of tonsillitis. Within one week I finished my dissertation and moved to Beijing. This was on top of all the goodbye parties and late nights I had with friends. Let’s just say, packing was a struggle considering I could barely get out of bed!
The UNNC doctors put me on antibiotics and I was better in a few days. However, three weeks later I was sick with tonsillitis AGAIN. I actually thought I was going to die, and for one day I ate ice cream for every meal (which really cut into my budget!).
Finally it got to the point where I had to miss work and head to the hospital. The doctor put me on a round of really strong antibiotics, and I was better in about 24 hours. After chatting with my mom, we think that the antibiotics I was given in Ningbo didn’t kill the bacteria, and it resurfaced. The antibiotics they gave me weren’t the right type for tonsillitis (thanks UNNC), and I was only given about half the dose I needed. Unfortunately, the real-deal antibiotics came at a steep price: almost $60!!!
Thankfully I have really good insurance that covers 80% of doctors visits and medication, however I have to wait to be reimbursed. Who knows how long that will take! Since I’m already on a tight budget, that $60 was money I didn’t have to spare.
Getting my tonsils removed… IN CHINA.
After I explained to the doctor that I’ve had tonsillitis 5 times in the last year, and twice in one month, he said what I’ve been thinking all along: these babies have to go. I basically freaked out and started doing an insane amount of research on the surgery and hospitals.
After talking to my family and spending countless hours on Google, I decided that I’m going to wait for a few months and see if the tonsillitis comes back again. If I get it again in the next few months, I’ll have my tonsils out in the spring when things calm down at work. Apparently I need to take two weeks off!!
Also, Beijing has a lot of really great hospitals, and my insurance covers 100% of surgeries and hospital stays, so I probably won’t be flying home for the surgery. Thankfully I live close enough to the office that people can take care of me. Also, I have 3 coworkers that live in my building that I can call if I need anything.
Most Popular Post
The most popular post I wrote this month was World Class Diving in Moalboal Philippines. I wrote about my experience scuba diving in one of the world’s most famous dive locations. I saw electric clams, frog fish and dove with giant clouds of sardines. I even made a video!
Who doesn’t love elephants? My most popular Instagram was taken at Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park.
Have amazing travel photos of your own? Use the hashtag #AdventuresAroundAsia and I’ll feature my favorites on the blog!
Song of the Month
I’ve been obsessed with this new David Guetta song. It’s just so catchy!
What I’m Reading
A Run-In With the Norwegian Mafia– Heart My Backpack
Silvia vents about her struggles with bureaucracy trying to get internet in her Norwegian apartment. When I read this post I was ALSO having an epic internet struggle. This post was a good reminder that beurocratic crap happens everywhere, including developed Northern European countries like Norway.
Why I Cancelled My Trip to the Seychelles an Hour Before My Flight– Never Ending Footsteps
I loved this honest post by Lauren about her most recent anxiety attack and how she needs to slow down . Sometimes I feel guilty for not traveling ever single second I get, but we all have times in life we just need to stop, reassess and stay in one place for a while.
“Traveling alone is not that dangerous. Especially when you compare it to other things. Like boyfriends.” More amazing and hilarious insight from Sally about why there are plenty of other things we should be worrying about rather than women who travel on their own.
Coming Up in October 2015
The first week of October I have a whole week off for National Day! Since I’m broke, I’ll be using my time to explore more of Beijing outside of my neighborhood. I’m also babysitting a cat (!!!) for the week. His name is Richard and we’re already best friends.
Mid-October I’ll be heading to Thailand for TBEX!!! This will be my first ever blogger conference, so I’m beyond excited to attend. Anyone else going??
Are you enjoying these monthly recaps? Let me know and I’ll keep them coming :)