William and Mary Law School

First Week in Beijing

I just finished my first week of work at Zhicheng Public Interest Group. This post was delayed because apartments in Beijing (or at least Fengtai, one of the more rural and less developed districts of Beijing) do not have internet. Luckily, internet 3G cards are pretty easy to find and if you go to Tian An Men, very cheap.

My apartment is two blocks from work. I walk there in the morning and scan my finger print to enter the building. I work in the internet coordinator's office with three full time staff. They are all very nice and can speak some English. Xiuhong, my boss, speaks extremely good English. Most people there are very young, as in China law is an undergraduate major. My first day there, I met with the director of the entire center. He assigned me my pro bono research project. The deadline is still unclear. But the director plans to hold an informal conference on the topic of how other countries implement pro bono programs. His hope is to encourage Chinese firms and bar associations to increase pro bono efforts and adopt a system similar to America's. I have been researching pro bono policies in the United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and New Zealand. It has been incredibly interesting. Living and going to law school in America led me to suppose all countries had the same type of pro bono programs as the U.S. This is not the case. But Australia has a pro bono program fairly similar to America's, and the other countries seem to be headed in that directions, just in different ways. Today I handed in a rough accumulation of my research for the director to review this weekend.

The work environment at my center is very friendly and informal. Some days the women wear dresses, other days jeans. Most of the men wear t-shirts. Given the heat, this is nice. Also, we often take snack breaks. And naps.

This weekend is a three-day weekend, because Monday is the Dragon Boat Festival. I'm not sure how it is celebrated, but will find out soon. My boss invited me to her place. Also, at work right now there are two other interns. This weekend I will go shopping and to the spa with them.

As for living in Fengtai. It's amazing. People are so friendly. And the food is delicious and inexpensive. I eat lunch at a restaurant for less than $2 every day. We all go out to eat together and share a meat dish and two vegetable dishes a day. Most days we eat a form of cabbage. Sometimes spicy, sometimes pickled, sometimes sweet. We also have a chicken dish in a sweet sauce almost every day. And then we explore with the third dish. Today it was strings of tofu that were slightly salty, slightly spicy, and slightly sweet all at the same time. And we drink hot soy milk.

My area of town has dozens of small restaurants, a grocery store, and an interesting night life. At night, everyone sits at tables outside drinking beer or iced tea and music plays. The water isn't safe to drink so I go to the grocery store and buy bottled water and iced tea a lot. The grocery store has almost anything I could need for a really good price. But fruit is semi expensive, maybe because of the drought in China right now.

That's my first week in a nutshell. I'll post again soon.