On Being an American: Updated with Pictures!

I tried to get these in yesterday, but due to internet problems, pictures wouldn’t load. But here they are now!

The view of Beijing from high up in the Summer Palace.

When we first began talking about possibly moving to China for a year, we were living in one of the most affluent cities in America: Arlington, Virginia. Houses, cars, land, shopping, space: we Americans have it made.

China, on the other hand, is a country of contradictions. A beautiful modern building stands tall next to a pile of graying brick that looks as though it will crumble in about three years. Their subway system is incredibly modern—Washington, D.C., could take a few hints!—but on the streets pedestrians yield to cars.  Tumble-down shops–practically nothing more than a hole in the wall–are surrounded by piles of junk, but an enormous supermarket takes up the whole block on the other side of the street. People get from one place to another in shiny new cars or odd bicycle contraptions that look as if they could disintegrate any moment—and usually carry loads many feet high.

A very normal sight for Beijingers.



The smells practically assault an American. Sewers are underground, but according to the reek emanating from the manholes (helpfully covered with a metal cover, just like in America), they aren’t buried very deeply. The pungent smell of garlic greens is evident on the subways, along with the aroma of many sweaty people all crammed together.


And people are everywhere. They flood the streets on foot and in vehicles. They mass in the supermarkets and the banks, fill the universities.

Small shops.

But all these things that an American would gripe about and demand better of life? The Chinese just accept them, realizing that change takes time. They’re willing to invest that time, too, and begin to clean up their streets and their air and their buildings instead of whitewashing the outside and leaving the inside dirty.

So I’m confident it will be a good year in China. We have a lot to learn from the Chinese.

One of Beijing’s skylines

2 thoughts on “On Being an American: Updated with Pictures!

  1. Carson

    Annika, Just to keep things in perspective… I’ve just been alerted to the fact that our backdoor neighbor’s house has been condemned and is currently hosting a large rat infestation right here in beautiful Arlington! Yuck! We miss you. Hope the teaching is going well. Carson

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