“When you can take the pebble from my hand…”
My Chinese odyssey has come to an end, not with the bang of celebratory fireworks and shrimp dumplings, but the whimper of having to exit the country the day before my visa expired. A year to the day since I touched down at Terminal 2 of Beijing International Airport, I flew out again, and Im not writing this from a Tongzhou coffee shop but from the lounge of my sister’s flat in Oxfordshire.
I’ve enjoyed using this blog to stretch some writing muscles and share with you some of my adventures and misadventures in one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever visited. It was sometimes overwhelming, often frustrating and not always fun but it was always interesting and I learned a lot. I went out to China with an open mind and no expectations, and I came back with a lot of stories, many new friends and a sense of achievement.
There were a lot of contradictions: I enjoyed most of the food but it didn’t often agree with me. I enjoyed my job as a teacher but I was not overly impressed with the company that I chose to work for. Some of Beijing’s inhabitants were the warmest, friendliest and most helpful people I’ve ever met while others would have happily run me over if it meant beating the traffic light, or kick me to death on the subway if it meant a seat to Wudaoko.
As someone who once spent seven years in the same dead-end job, rarely enthusiastic about the thought of leaving my own flat, I think I did pretty well just getting on the plane in the first place. As someone who spent those same years filling notebooks and journals full of stories and ideas that I was too afraid to share, it has been a pleasure to write this blog and receive such enthusiastic response from my friends and family.
If I have learned anything from my travels to China’s capital it’s that there are more similarities than differences between people, places and cultures (something I have long suspected anyway). Why not go and see for yourself?
In the borrowed words of professor Tolkien, “not all who wander are lost”; or of professor Manheim, “you are always closer to home than you think”.
So long, and I’ll see you on the next adventure.