Saturday, July 27, 2013


It’s 6 PM here in Beijing, and in 22 hours I’ll be on a plane heading back to the United States.  These last 5 months have felt like a lifetime, an alternative reality I never imagined living but am craving to experience again.  It’s incredible that I had the opportunity to live in two of China’s largest cities, while engaging new people, places, lifestyles and ideas.  The age old question, do I like Shanghai or Beijing more? – I can’t quite answer.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and I think it comes down to what you want out of the city. 

The goodbyes are always weird, and I really dislike them.   I said goodbye to my roommate yesterday because he’s headed south to Guangzhou and then to Hong Kong to renew his visa.  It’s been a pleasure living with Tom, and this hutong apartment has been integral to my time here.  
Although my internship had moments of office drudgery, I appreciated the change from working at a café.
  I really enjoyed my colleagues, especially the lady lunch group and exchanging different cultural lessons.  It’s been a good test for a potential future in the professional world, and I was able to interact with a different ex-pat community here, rather than just students.  I passed my bike keys to Fang Fang, said good bye to each of them quietly with a slight lump in my throat, then left the office yesterday for the last time.
One of my teammates from frisbee, ZeFang, is a native Beijinger but goes to school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
  I instantly bonded with her over the fact that until middle school, my family went to Lancaster every Thanksgiving to visit Hershey Park and the tax-free outlet malls.  Sometimes we’d make the trip during the summer to utilize the Amish talent in construction, horses harnesses, carts, delicious jams, and dogs.  Anyway, ZeFang and her parents took me out for a feast on Wangfujing Street, and I just am constantly amazed and appreciative of the generosity shown by my Chinese friends.  Even though society is experiencing disjuncture between the old ways of life and the post-reform, capitalistic life, this kindness to share the best of China with new friends seems to be a backbone.  ZeFang and her dad are even going to drive me to the airport Sunday!  I told her that she has to come to my house this coming  year, or we’ll have to visit Lancaster (about a 6 hour drive south).

Later, I met a someone at a birthday party, who lives 15 minutes from Honeoye in Canandaigua!! I have found a few people from the North Country, Syracuse, and even suburbs of Rochester, but this was simply fantastic.  She’s just begun 5 weeks out of a 2 year stay, so how bizarre it was to relate about a place that she’s said goodbye to for a while, and I will be say hello to again. 

Then this afternoon, I played with my Beijing summer league team Crazy Bad for the last time, and hopefully imparted enough spirit that will carry them to the championship at the end of the summer.  Frivolous as it may seem, playing Ultimate has had an immense impact on my perspective here.  The cultural differences fade away when you're diving for the same flying disc down a grassy field.

Life here is by no means perfect, but I already miss China.  At the same time, I have to go and finish my time at St. Lawrence, which is another mind twist I haven’t processed.  I’m already envisioning the shock of return, after a 15-hour flight that launches from one side of the world to another without much time to process in between.  Though I don’t leave with any strong regrets, there is still so much to do here.  

China, I’m not done with you yet.  I know I'll be back someday. 

Listening: “Here’s to Now” by Ugly Casanova, from the deliriously wonderful soundtrack of 180 degrees South
(the internet is slow today, so the photo vomit will come in another post)

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