“There was this one time…”
“Can this wait, because your stories always make me want to piss myself, and I really need to pee.”
Almost a year ago to the day I was watching Fist of Fury in a little garret above a recording studio in the UK. I’ve always liked Asian movies, particularly if they’re about martial arts.*
If someone had told me that a year later I would be sitting in a flat in Tongzhou, on the outskirts of Beijing, writing a blog about my life in China, I’d have thought they were as crazy as the ‘brain infected’ old man from Shogun Assassin.** Nevertheless, a flat in Tongzhou is where I am. And a blog about China is what I’m writing.
I grew up in small-town Canada (wasting most of my youth watching movies and TV shows). Beijing is, believe it or not, the first city that I’ve ever lived in. As ‘first cities’ go, it’s a pretty incredible one.
In a recent online article, the journalist Kai Lukoff said this: “[San Francisco] is often said to draw top talent because it has one of the best living environments on earth. No one would say that about Beijing. Beijing is an acquired taste, one that’s often smoky with pollution… The unpleasantness of the city, the lack of Shanghai’s creature comforts or Shenzen’s sunshine, gives it an edge. There’s a gritty determination to seize the moment, whatever the obstacles in the way.” That thwacking noise you could hear as you read this quote was the sound of a nail being hit squarely on the head.
If you look at a map of Beijing, and imagine the city as a man squatting on a toilet, it’s not hard to picture Tongzhou as the arse end. Nevertheless, it is still an interesting part of an amazing city. There have been a lot of ups and downs for me since coming here. I have learned a lot about myself and about the world, and I feel that I’m learning more each day. I hope, with this blog, to draw attention to some of the differences between cultures as well as the similarities between human beings. I hope to blow a hole in some misconceptions that Westerners have of China and Chinese people (for example, the stereotype that many casual racists have about Chinese people swapping the ‘r’s and ‘l’s? Sheer crap, at least here in Beijing. However, I hope one day you will understand the frustration of teaching a child the meaning of ‘quarter to two’, or how to pronounce ‘very delicious’!)
Over the coming weeks and months I will share some of my stories and observations of living and working in China’s capital, along with some interesting facts (did you know, for example, that since 2012, Beijing has overtaken Hong Kong as China’s biggest filmmaking community?) I will also try to offer some advice on what to do (and what not to do) if you are thinking of taking a trip to China yourself.
Please check out the contact page if you’d like to get in touch with any comments/questions/queries/etc.)
Hěn gāoxìng rènshí ni!
*One of my favourites is Chocolate, the Thai movie about a little autistic girl who learns kung fu after watching movies all day, then uses her newfound skills to extract the money owed to her mother by vicious gangsters. There is a gloriously un-PC fight scene where she battles a boy who suffers from full-body Tourette’s. If you haven’t seen it, then you pretty much owe it to yourself to get hold of a copy!
**I’m aware that the film is Japanese and not Chinese, but it’s another good martial arts reference!