The last two days have been a whirlwind of activity and emotions. We landed in Beijing and got to our temporary housing around 11:00pm on Wednesday night (the day before Thanksgiving). We're staying in a nice, new three bedroom apartment on the east side of downtown Beijing. It's fully furnished and was ready for us to move in.
Our first challenge was to figure out how to turn down the heat. For some reason, Chinese (and I think Japanese) like their buildings warm. Really warm. Like 22 degrees C (72 degrees F). This is way way too warm for our tastes. Unfortunately, in most buildings, there's pretty limited ability to control the temperature in the rooms so we've had to just turn off the heat in the room and open the windows (which you can do here, even though we're on the 30th floor.) We achieved enough success here to get to sleep, but it's an ongoing problem as the maids turn the heat back on all the time.
In the morning, I set out around 6:00am foraging for coffee and breakfast for the family, not knowing much of anything about the environs. It turns out this part of Beijing is totally dark and closed until at least 7:00 or 8:00am. It was, however, freezing cold and windy outside. I came back to a den of hungry and un-caffeinated family members. We struck out later together and found some grub and did a little grocery shopping at a ridiculously overpriced organic grocery (Lohao City - a chain here).
We then got a tour around the area from the assistant manager of the apartment building, a very charming French guy. Aside from helping us find a less expensive grocery store, he pointed out the good and not-so-good restaurants in the area - a clear plus.
Later in the afternoon, we went to Thanksgiving Dinner at another Microsoft expat's home; the Emighs very graciously invited us to their party (at the suggestion of the Lindheimers whom we met on our last trip), even though we had never met. We enjoyed a great dinner with three other expat families and their kids. As an extra bonus some of the families had kids who go to the same school the boys will be going to, so they already know a few kids. The expat community here seems pretty supportive (or at least the folks we met are); we feel very fortunate to have already met some nice friends here.
Our second day was about buying the things critical to our life here - power supplies for our Gameboys and Wii, household sundries like coat hangers, as well as cell phone service for Michelle and Andrew (I already have a phone from work). I have to admit, I was surprised how successful we were finding what we needed between Walmart (which deserves its own post) and the Hailong Electronics Mall, despite my spotty Chinese.
After dropping the family back at the apartment, I struck out for China Mobile to get cell service. I wound up in a small, dingy office with fluorescent lights on the fifth floor of some high-rise office tower. I know almost zero words associated with mobile phones, billing plans, and so on, but I smiled a lot and tried hard. I had three very helpful ladies explain the different options (all of them apparently wondering why I was so dumb). I settled on two plans that I think made sense (we'll see after the first month I suppose) and then met a hapless woman who tried to set up our service. Once she confessed to the most helpful of the first three that she had only done this once before, Ms. Helpful pushed Ms. Hapless out of the way and finished the job. Both phones ring and can send text messages, so I guess it was a success.
Everyone was too tired and jetlagged to go out for dinner, so we had delivery from a nearby Italian place (Osteria) which wasn't bad at all and went to bed. It's been a busy two days. Fortunately, the boys have been pretty good, and we're (mostly) getting used to the idea that we're actually living here now. Next week, we start our new life in earnest with school and work.