Another week, another trip to Beijing, it seems I can’t stay away. A trip to Tian´an men square and the Lama temple was on the agenda for the day, with a short stop in the Hutong area.
This time I went with my friend Claire from Belgium, who works here as an English Teacher, teaching 3-5 (!) year-olds English. I could barely speak Swedish at that age, never mind English, but that is the reality of China today, everyone has their child take extra lessons after school. If you don’t do it, your child will surely fall behind. A child that is, let’s say, 9-years old, usually starts school at 8 in the morning and finish at 4 or 5 in the evening, then it’s time for extra lessons which usually lasts until 8, after that you go back home to finish the homework you didn’t have time to do in school. That is a long day for a 9-year old, Swedish kids really shouldn’t complain.
Due to the one-child policy in China, most families only have one child, at least in the cities, which means that there is a lot of pressure on the one child to do well and with the fierce competition in China, you have to be the best in order to get in to a decent University. Often it is not enough to number one in your class or school, you have to be number one in your province if you want to get in to the top-5 Universities like Beida, Qinghua and Fudan, China’s Harvard or Princeton. As a foreigner it is hard to understand exactly how much effort you have to put into your studies in China. If you don’t make it, you face the harsh reality of disappointed parents and difficulties with finding a good job. Extra lessons are pretty much mandatory these days and weekends are spent preparing for next week’s lessons. However, once you make it in to the University, the workload actually decreases and students have some free-time to do other things, it’s just that the road to get there is long and difficult.
I have managed to catch a cold again and according to the Chinese the key thing is to drink lots of hot water, so that’s what I’ll do. If you ever have to visit a hospital in China, you actually have two choices, you can either choose to be treated with western medicine or you can choose to be treated with Chinese medicine. Should you choose Chinese medicine, they usually examine you, and then give you a list of herbs to buy and and a recipe to cook by yourself. Every time I’m sick people bombard me with all kinds of advices on how to get well, everything from eating five oranges in the morning and five in the evening, to eating to apples, one kiwi and a glass of milk before going to bed, everyone has their own remedies. People still trust Chinese medicine more than western, but it is becoming more and more common to go to the pharmacy and ask for pills.
I now have a private tutor that I meet twice per week, an hour at the time. I pay about 70 yuan per hour, which I think is ok, given that she has been teaching for 8 years and really knows what she’s doing. I also have a language partner, a really sweet girl from Lanzhou. She’s quite shy and doesn’t really want to speak that much English, which is good for me, but I try to help her the best I can. She asked me to give her an English name, I’ve never given anyone a name before (except for pets), so I definitley felt the pressure. We finally decided on Stella, easy to pronounce and not that common. I think the strangest name I’ve come across was a kid named “Boner”, which his English teacher quickly changed to “Bono”. I can just imagine people’s reaction when he introduced himself as “Boner”… On Friday I’m going to Beijing again, I think me and my friend will try to visit some new places and perhaps head to the outskirts of the city where there are actually some mountains. Since Beijing is surrounded by mountains, the pollution usually tends to be worse here than in Tianjin. I think I really need to buy myself a mask, you just don’t know how it will affect you in the long term breathing this bad air. My friends David and Lindsey are heading for Sweden on Monday, David is from the same town as me; Falkenberg, and we studied Chinese together in Lund. Now he is married to Lindsey and she is learning Swedish. First time in Sweden she ate rice the first three days, then she discovered kebab and now she eats it every time she visits.