Monday, 1 September 2008

Reflection: Changing Live


How many people go on an airplane and leave their life behind?

How many people can go on a plane and fly into a new life, just in a few hours?

I try to get some sleep on the plane. But my thoughts are back in China. I keep asking myself questions like 'Did I like China enough?'... I feel empty. Exhausted after all that packing and moving. Its totally normal I say to myself and switch on the lights in the dark business class where all the window shades are kept down. I can't even observe the vastness of Mongolia to feel travelling a distance. So I get my notebook (paper notebook) and a pen. I need to write down my feelings, my impressions. Right now. Because how often do I leave my life behind and start a new one? Just in a couple of hours time from now, thanks to modern technology of transportation!

I want to capture my thoughts, my feelings, before they vanish.
The last two hours in Beijing I tried to keep the farewells low key, quick and painless. I don't want to cry.

I never felt very connected to Beijing. It is not a very attractive city, like Paris or Rome you could fall in love with easily. The weather, grey skies, kind of foggy humidity, paired with pollution, over the last weeks makes the good-byes easier.

We made it into the plane, after having said good-bye to our wonderful, loyal, gentle, always helpful, friendly, handsome, smart and favorite driver of 3 years - a quick but emotional good-bye - and after having checked-in 15 bags and suitcases with some tears in my eyes. And I ask myself the same question as the days before: 'Am I sad?', 'Am I going to miss Beijing?'

In the last days before our departure I felt protecting myself with a selective perception. I did not see that many things around me anymore. I was running around like a busy bee or maybe more like a nervous chicken. I did not plan well ahead (I ignored the deadline somehow) and so I run out of time to relax and enjoy some last Beijing 'specialities'. E.g. I missed a last foot massage and a last manicure...

My last morning. I look out of the hotel room - where we moved to spend the last night - I thought: 'How ugly!' What an ugly city!

Exactly 3 years and 3 years ago, I came here on a look and see trip. I had mixed feelings about that city. It is still ugly (especially on a grey smog day like today), BUT I got used to it and I became familiar with the city. It became our home for 3 years.

Now in the plane, I ask myself: 'Didn't I love China enough?'
I realise now, I always kept a distance to the city, to the people.

I have to admit, living as an expat in Beijing, was above all a very convenient life. It was like 3 years of holiday for me.

But I keep asking myself: 'If I did not really connected, was it a waste of time?', and 'Did I learn something from living in China?'

I have a strange feeling that my interest in China starts just now. A bit late. However not too late.

I also ask myself what would I have done differently if I would come to China now, instead of leaving it.

For sure, I would study Mandarin harder. And for sure I would start with learning writing and reading Chinese characters instead of only learning pinyin.

And if I would have a couple of weeks more time, what would I do in Beijing? I would visit Fragrant Hill. I would go on more long bicycle rides throughout the city and bring along my camera.
And I would go for massages at least once a week.
That's all.
So I have not missed much. I think.

Somehow for the first time in my life I envied the stewardesses that fly in and out of Beijing a couple of times every year. They arrive, first thing in the morning they meet the tailors and shop around the markets. Next time they come back they pick-up their tailor made summer dresses. Or let it deliver in the hotel lobby, like I saw it this morning.

Beijing is great for shopping. This is probably what I will miss most. I am not a big shopper or fashionista, not at all. But it was fun to go shopping with friends in Beijing and browse the markets for some great bargains. Especially for children clothes. My last find were real Crocs at the Russian market for 6 Euro (all sizes, all colours, almost all models).

My last days were packed with tailor appointments. I had four (4!) tailors at the end (one of them was the 'tapissier' that made cushion covers, bags, mattresses, bed linen, curtains etc. for me). I am kind of glad that I have not to deal with Shen Na & co for a while... The last encounter was last night at midnight. I was already sleeping in my bed in the hotel room, when my phone rang. It was the tailor that couldn't make it earlier, she was working like hell for all the other woman leaving Beijing at the same time, and I had forgotten to tell her that I have moved already to the hotel... I explained her (in Chinese) to drop the last shirts at the lobby of our compound and text massaged the driver (the wonderful one, in pinyin) to please pick-up things for me in the morning ..

What else will I miss beside tailor made bargains?
Great but affordable lunches at Hatsune and W !
I think at the end I was know by every waitress and waiter.
Of course Alameda is not bad either!

And my bicycle. I will miss my Chinese Giant bicycle. (I gave it to my ayi). I will miss my rides around Sanlitun.
I will miss the compound with its convenient play street, the kindergarten and the playground in 100 m reach. Also the supermarkets that open every day until late - like all the other shops !

That's about all I am going to miss - maybe. (Actually, as this is a flashback, I can tell: I am not missing a single thing!)

And friends?
Yes, but somehow they are all going to leave Beijing, some in the next 2 weeks, some in the next 1 or 2 years. Most of them are from Europe and they are going to move back to Europe. So I am going to see them again, with a little effort, sooner or later. That is a very comforting feeling.

to be continued

Photo Source: Mongolia from above, originally uploaded to flickr by juho-v


toomanytribbles said...

i just left beijing yesterday.

it wasn't 3 years -- it was 1 1/2.

i don't know what to feel either, right now. just sleep a bit.

- Suzie - said...

Hi tmt,

you are inspiring me for a new post. About how to avoid withdrawal syndroms...

Anonymous said...

just because you think it's a ugly city doesn't mean it's a ugly city, what's so great about paris or rome? i've been to both & thought it was average, my purse was stolen when i was in rome

- Suzie - said...

Did I say / write 'ugly'?
Beijing is not a beauty! Everybody would agree. You don't?

Of course Beijing has very pretty areas. Mainly where it is untouched. The old areas have its flair. I think I have posted a lot about the beauties of Beijing.

However when you drive around some ringroads, it is easy to get depressed.

It is much easier to fall in love with Rome or Paris, they are romantic cities (with or without a lover) and beauty is everywhere (in the center), although Paris is mainly grey and Rome is a lot shabby - they are far more attractiv then Beijing.

What do you mean by 'average'?
They are to me two of the most beautiful cities in the world.

What is your favorite city?

People adjust to their surroundings. And I have adjusted to Beijing. And at the end I saw only what I wanted to see (mainly), the exotic China flair.

Okay, one more thing:
the city I would pack my suitcase for rather today then tomorrow?


Not really a beauty (like I consider Paris and Rome), but it has other advantages: the weather, the people, the food, the fun, the smiles, the bargains, the exotic atmosphere, the river, the temples, buddhism, massages, easy living for expats & sweet memories
--> summary: Bangkok offers to me the best quality of life

Thanks anonymous for your comment. I appreciate some challenging question! It was a change! Really !

If you read this, I really would like to know your favorite city.


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