This Saturday marked the end of my first full week in Nanjing. The city has proven to be much greener than I anticipated, with sycamore trees lining most streets. It is also more bustling: the largest subway station has 18 exits. I am having fun exploring my new home with the help of Baidu Maps, the Chinese-version of Google Maps. Baidu has no English language option, which adds a fun element of uncertainty to my journeys. I have also obtained a guidebook and plan to explore the city one cardinal direction at a time. This weekend, I went east!
Slowly, I am becoming more comfortable speaking Mandarin and can now handle basic transactions, like purchasing fruit at the fantastic, 24-hour fruit market near campus. I am still working on more complicated interactions, such as ordering food. Recently, I tried to obtain a bowl of noodles and got a bit flustered. The woman behind the counter told me how much the food was, I misunderstood and shouted out, “我吃肉！,” which means, “I eat meat!” Shockingly, she managed not to laugh and I was able to pay for my noodles.
In a few crucial ways, despite its size, Nanjing is very accessible. Its public bus and subway system is efficient, timely, and well marked (in both Chinese and English). This makes exploring the many corners of the city easier. On Saturday, one of my roommates and I took the 4 subway line and explored the eastern part of the city. There we wandered Wuchaomen Park (午朝门公园), looked at the ruins of Nanjing’s imperial palace, and clambered up part of the Ming dynasty wall, the Meridian Gate. Those walls must have been incredibly thick, because the gate was around 50 feet across (that probably is not an accurate estimate, give or take 20 feet).
Nearby the park is the Nanjing Museum, which had a neat exhibit on the connections between Golden Age Russia and China during the early Qing dynasty. Our understanding of the exhibition was hampered by our limited proficiency in Mandarin and lack of proficiency in Russian, but it was interesting to see the artifacts.
Along with sightseeing, I’ve been planning classes and getting set up in my new home. This afternoon I teach my first class, Mythology and Folk Literature. Wish me luck!