“He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.”
– The Lord of the Rings
It’s two years to the day since I first touched down in Ring Road City, and one year to the day since I flew out again. This week, I returned. After the first snowfall of the season snafued me on the runway at YVR, I had a mad Richard Curtis-style dash through Seattle-Tacoma International and made it, with moments (very few moments) to spare, onto the connecting flight to Beijing.
It’s good to be back in a land where tipping really is just a town (maybe not so good to see a man wiping his dog’s arse while you’re out for your morning constitutional). As someone who was raised in sleepy English villages and smaller-than-small Albertan towns, I must admit that the rural will always have its Thomas Hardy, H.E. Bates-y, Andrew Kötting-esque charms, but I for one have always been a sucker for the Big Smoke of the big city. And when it comes to Bigness and Smokeyness, Beijing can’t be beat for five chubby fingers of sensory overload. Although lacking the fresh air of Vancouver, the Jing makes up for it with a sooty, soil-y metallic-tasting charm of its own (even if I have been carrying around the selected writings of Henry David Thoreau in my back pocket).
I haven’t been back long. Just long enough to meet some new people, drink plenty of hot water and get an eye/nose/ear/tummy full of the world’s third most densely-populated city. Just long enough to snap a few photos, scribble a handful of journal entries and tap out a very short blog post.
Just long enough to make me glad I didn’t move to Shanghai.