Nabianr, 那边儿, or ‘over there’ in Chinese was a phrase that I did not know before today, but will never forget.
The first few days at IES were very busy with orientation and ‘ice-breaker’ activities. It also gave us all a chance to get over our jetlag, and get to know each other better. Today however was the first day that we actually got to explore Haidian, the neighborhood in which IES resides, a bit more thoroughly. Mind you, when I say neighborhood, this is a neighborhood with over two million people. Thus exploring this was no small feat. All of the students split up into pairs, and were given a destination somewhere in Haidian (without the address, in Chinese characters only), and we had to first figure out what the place was, and then ask for directions, and use public transportation to get there. What I didn’t know was that many people in Beijing aren’t that familiar with areas not in their immediate vicinity. Hence when asking people right outside the university, we didn’t have much luck. Deciding to start walking in an arbitrary direction, we finally found someone who had at least heard of our destination. When asking him how to get there, his reply was: nabianr, over there, and he vaguely indicated somewhere down the street. We decided to keep walking in that general direction until we found someone else to ask. They indicated the first side street, and said again: nabianr. Walking down that side street, we reached a major intersection, asking another person for direction, who indicated we had to turn left, and then: nabianr, after an hour and a half of walking, we decided to ask if the destination was in walking distance, they person said yes, just go: nabianr. In the end, it turned out that we could take a subway to our destination, and that it was NOT walking distance. But overall it was really cool to walk around in our area. Everything is so different here that we had a blast seeing all the people and how they lived their daily lives.
Anyhow, lesson learnt, if you’re going somewhere, find out where the general area is, and then ask for directions once you arrive. Nabianr can be really, really far away.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Jason Klanderman, originally from Chicago, grew up in Amsterdam. He has travelled extensively through Europe and Asia. He is an International Politics, History and Global and International Studies triple major, with a minor in Chinese at Penn State University. When not in State College, where he is currently living, you can find him traveling between Amsterdam, Singapore, and various other places, visiting family and friends. His hobbies include reading, writing, cooking and going to the gym. Read about his experiences as he tackles the middle kingdom, China, during his spring semester 2013.</span></p>