By Jerry Garrido
I can still remember quite clearly the day I arrived in Beijing. It was a sunny autumn day, and a bit cold for us who are used to the weather back home. Some Filipino friends met us at the airport for we really did not know our way around. We also did not speak any Mandarin at that time. I was quite impressed by how fast we were able to get our luggage. In no time we were proceeding to Beijing Language & Culture University, our school and home for the next eleven months. Beijing was everything that I dreamed it would be, and more.
My stay here in Beijing is one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life. How can I describe it? It's one of the few places I have been to that really felt like home. I have been to Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. Those are really beautiful places, but after a few weeks at those places I was itching to go back home. Unlike here—it's been three months and it seems just like yesterday.
Beijing for me is a very exotic place. It's a mixture of the modern and traditional world. I can definitely say it's a modern city by any standard. We can see very well the high rise buildings towering over the city, the massive road system where hundreds of cars pass every day, the undergoing amazing infrastructure preparation for the 2008 Olympics, the huge recreational facilities like parks, museums, zoos etc. There are also the convenient subway and transportation system to take you around. Going to the countryside, on the other hand, you’ll see a lot of old brick houses and farmlands. You can also notice old people gathering in parks in the mornings and evenings to get their regular exercises and chat. Sometimes when I look at them I can't help but appreciate the contentment and joy they have in doing the simple routines of life. In spite of the changes in time, some things really don't change and you can still see a lot of traces of the past.
My impression of the general population is that most of the people here are warm-hearted. The old people are still very much respected by the younger generation, and they are also actively participating in the society. However, to be frank, Chinese people are still a mystery to me at present. For example, the combination of conservatism and sometimes the liberal attitude of the youth. People here are fascinated by West, but at the same time they hold on to the traditional ways of doing things. I think it would take me years before I could really understand Chinese culture and society. I believe the first step to have a better understanding is to learn how to speak its native language. -