If you were able to fully understand my life right now, you may be surprised that this blog post is not about being kicked out of our apartment in three days. It’s not about how two of our roommates illegally subletted their rooms, and the less-intelligent of the two got caught by posting the exact address on the internet for the owner to find. It’s not about how we paid an agent a lot of money to secure an illegally subletted room, or how we had a very awkward run-in with the Chinese-speaking owner about how we have three days to vacate the apartment.

OK, so maybe I lied a little…this post is only partially about that. This recent turn of events isn’t the entire focus of my life because I have freaked out so much over my visa, job and the stresses of living here that I’m trying very hard to analyze and appreciate the other things happening in our chaotic Chinese lives, namely, The Beijing Subway. (And also, our friend and roommate Er Wei, who has agreed to move out with us and help find another place to live.)

I have been storing a mental list of the visual spectacles I have encountered on the Subway for about a month now, and felt a strong compunction to share them today. Coming home on Line 10, I overheard some relatively loud music while listening to the soothing instruction of my Pimsleur Chinese podcast. Assuming it was someone’s ridiculously loud ring tone, I ignored the sound at first. However, I soon realized that it was a guy playing the guitar with a surprisingly great voice. I turned off my podcast and listened to this tall, lanky, musician who was visibly nervous but playing his heart out. It was so refreshing to see a Chinese person standing out from the crowd, risking public disapproval, to share something beneficial with others. What really made my heart ache was that he didn’t receive the public shame so many Chinese are petrified to experience, he collected kuai after kuai to fill his guitar case with money. Old and young, male and female, they all appreciated the music and supported the young “rebel.”

Then, as so often happens during even one commute in China, I found that my mood careened from elevated high to depressing low. I heard a clipping sound to my left, and dearly hoped it wasn’t what I thought it was. I followed the sound, peered through the crowd, and found a thirty-something adult male clipping his finger nails in the car! Seriously?! My mind raced to find the words to tell him how completely disgusting and inappropriate I found his actions, but in the end my limited Chinese forced me to curse him only in my head. Where was that musician to confidently tell this guy off when I needed him?

Seething in my anger, I was reminded me of a few other subway spectacles I had experienced since moving to Beijing a month ago. First, there was the baby whose parents helped him squat to pee in the middle of a moving subway car. Fortunately for those hoping to rinse the bottom of their shoes that afternoon, the pee managed to slide all around the floor and and create an array of mini-puddles. While I understand that some perils often accompany the decision not to use diapers on children,(which I actually applaud for the resulting lack of non-biodegradable plastic in landfills) the fact that the parents had encouraged this behavior instead of reprimanding the child for peeing on public transportation caused these poor souls to feel the wrath of my disapproving looks for a long ten-minute ride to my stop. Additionally, there was the woman who not only completely exposed one breast to feed her child during the commute, but both breasts because the child would not stop screaming until he was drinking from one side and holding the other for comfort. I just chuckled at that one, I suppose you gotta do what you gotta to do keep a kid from screaming during rush hour.

So, I write this post for you today as a way to put my troubles into perspective. China is a trying place for foreigners to make a life for themselves, especially trying to do it mostly on your own. However, through every day and every struggle I learn how to better manage life here, and I am certainly exposed to scenes that I never would have experienced at home. Who would’ve thought that the crowds and pushing of the mosh pit that is Line 1 of the Beijing Subway would seem insignificant compared to the other shocks I have experienced during my commute?

*A great visual depiction of Eastern vs. Western culture: http://www.slideshare.net/praveenvarghese/eastern-culture-vs-western-culture

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