The very first day in Beijing felt very unusual. When I left the airport building, I saw a country that was very different from anything I had seen in my life. It was not like Ukraine (my own country), and it definitely did not resemble Western countries.
The first thing I was amazed with was the way buildings look like. On the way from the airport to the hotel I had a great opportunity to catch some glimpses of the city. A significant part of the architecture in Beijing belongs to the Soviet period, which determines its style. There are, of course, some more traditionally styled buildings too. At the same time, some parts of the city are dominated by modern architecture; this crazy mix creates a very special atmosphere that is extremely hard to describe.
After we came to the hotel, I noticed the second peculiarity of China. Even though we had a high-class hotel, the workers there spoke little to no English. It felt very weird and I actually felt terrified during my first hour in the hotel, since I speak no Chinese at all.
In the evening we left for dinner. Personally, I had never been a huge fan of Asian food, but after my first meal, I have realized that I am in love with Chinese food. I have never tried 99% of the food they served, but everything was delicious. I also had to learn to eat with chopsticks, which turned out to be a fun experience.
After dinner the RISE organization that is aimed to help people in Chinese villages came to our hotel to tell us about their current projects. Their presentation was a deep insight into rural life in China and the problems people have there. Water pollution is one of the serious issues Chinese villages face these days, and the organization is helping peasants to make the water cleaner. They have designed a bio-sand filter, which is a cheap way to filter water.
At the end of the day I had mixed feelings. I still felt uncomfortable about not speaking Chinese, but the beautiful food, the welcoming people, and the interesting city made me feel relaxed and excited.