So it’s about one month in.

Miraculously, I am adjusting.

I’m getting used to the common sights and smells: Mom, dad, kid, and granny all piled onto one electric scooter. People perched precariously on the backs of each other’s bicycles. Ancient looking people balancing goods on poles over their shoulders, trudging on the sides of the roads. Dogs rummaging through overturned trashcans, people crouching with their cigarettes on the curbs, people taking naps anywhere they can conceivably stretch out. Rice paddies with barefoot peasants tending them, right behind the skyscrapers….

There are some ugly things: Like the big market of produce and meat where I do some of my shopping, with piles of rotting veggies swept to the sides and your feet getting splashed by bloody fish scale water as you walk through the seafood tubs. People swatting flies away from the warm meat that’s been sitting out all day. Poor people with no teeth whose pants are kept up by a string, rooting through the trashcans. Buses exuding black smoke, careening through traffic within an inch of the other cars, horns constantly blaring.
hair washing by the rotten veggies
(yes, she is washing her hair….)
warm meat
homeless in china

But there are some beautiful things, too: On Sunday, I rode away from the city on my bike to see what I could find. I found a fishing lake where the wind in the reeds was the noisiest thing. I found a bamboo forrest with a paved path, with little praying graves tucked away at intervals. I found a graveyard, sprawling over an entire mountain and looking over the city.
a lake
a gate in a bamboo forrest
ride through bamboo
in a bamboo forrest
View from the top

Some things are hard to get used to still. Like, even on my bike with my sunglasses on, somehow people can just tell I’m a foreigner; as soon as I ride near I can’t help but notice their unabashed head-turns and steady gazes as I pass. I feel them watching me eat at restaurants, maybe to see if I can use chopsticks or curious about what I’ll order. They overcharge me at the markets because I am Western, and even when I bargain I know I am ultimately paying more than a Chinese person would. My friend Jessica in Korea wrote in her blog about being struck illiterate overnight, and that is also something I am contending with. At the grocery store I have to rely on pictures and in the restaurants I am a master mime… often we will go into the kitchen and point out what we like, and even then we’re never quite sure what will come out! Not to get petty, but I would really like a fresh spinach salad, a taco, and some sweet potato fries.

But despite all that, somehow we really do get used to things. The offensive smells don’t offend me so much, the sound of someone hocking up a loogie doesn’t raise my eyebrow, nor does the sight of everyone sticking their hands into the rice grain bins at the store. I plunge mine in right along next to them. I don’t mind squatting to pee, and I’ve taken to riding on the backs of bikes and carrying an umbrella around in the sun. Granted, it has only been a month and I could be singing a whole ‘nother tune in one more, but as of right now, I feel like maybe I can really do this China thing!