Now that we’ve got one final night in Beijing (and are staying at an airport hotel to ensure that we’re all packed up and don’t miss the flight, as we did on the outbound!), I’ve had a chance to reflect on our time here. In this kind of bardo (the Tibetan space between death and rebirth) between our life in China and our life in the U.S., I’m starting to feel our life beginning to fade here and our life in Charlottesville come into clearer focus.
Things I’ve learned during our time here:
-Confirmation that while I love living abroad, and look forward to the next time we live overseas, I wouldn’t want to permanently leave the U.S.
-Still, home can be a shifting paradigm.
-Although I would have a hard time thinking about spending another winter in Beijing, the spring and summer have been wonderful (minus the occasional high pollution day(s)) and I’ve come to really appreciate Beijing. In fact, I’d be happy to stay through the end of October.
-Although it isn’t always easing schlepping three kids around a huge city, the benefits of living in a large urban environment with lots of parks, historic places, indoor playgrounds, and museums has been a great experience for us all.
-Daily confirmation that I can make friends & be happy wherever I am (good reminder when thinking about our next move);
-The perspective that the things that I’m caught up in and seem so important at home can actually be let go of and life goes on just fine (politics, daily obsession with NPR programming and news, my involvement in the kids’ schools, especially Dylan’s co-op, etc.).
-Kids are flexible and resilient (Dylan’s Chinese is really kicking in! Both kids ended up happy in Chinese kindergarten!), although we weren’t always so confident things would turn out well.
-Transitions are always hard for me.
Miss from Beijing/living overseas in China:
-Beijing’s fantastic parks (Beihai, Jingshan, Taoranting, Summer Palace, Old Summer Palace, Ritan, Ditan, Temple of Heaven, Beijing Botanical Gardens and, especially, Purple Bamboo): I love the huge spaces taken up by gorgeous, manicured parks, where you can walk for hours. NYC may have Central Park, but I’ve never been in a city where there is such a wealth of beautiful, cultivated outdoor spaces in an urban center.
-Living in a large, happening, international, urban environment.
-Food on sticks, especially fresh pineapple in the street.
-The aliveness that comes from always feeling like an outsider.
-The cultural encounters every day.
-New food to try every day.
-Encountering surprising and often stunning architecture on every taxi ride.
-Ginger scented dishwashing liquid.
-The extreme attention given to foreigners, especially with babies/kids (love and hate): I definitely get what it would feel like to be famous! (Sophia recently told us that having her photo taken all the time by strangers on the street is one thing she definitely won’t miss!).
-A constant global perspective and not just a myopic U.S. one (though here it’s easy to see the parallel myopic Chinese perspective that could easily be embraced!).
-Weekly take-out from Mei Zhou Dong Po (Sichuan food).
-Living in a country where citizens can’t own and carry guns.
Looking forward to in U.S.:
-Nia at acac/real exercise in general;
-Being able to text quickly (my phone in Beijing is archaic!) + having a smart phone;
-Clean Air (being able to run outside!) all the time;
-Car seats for the kids;
-Being able to brush/drink directly from the tap, especially for the kids!
-Having a clothes Dryer;
-Having a dishwasher;
-Involvement in the kids’ schools;
-Our house with three floors where one awake child doesn’t wake up the entire household;
-Ease of communication, where I don’t need an intermediary to translate for me;
-Living in a free, open, democratic society that is openly critical of itself and its leaders (gotta love the correspondents’ dinner, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, etc.). For all of the problems in the U.S., freedom of speech cannot be overpraised!