The heroes of my first year helped me not only survive, but thrive as I started my time in Beijing. So many names. So many faces. So many nationalities! So many stories. I would not have survived that first year without them.
Ten years ago today I arrived in Beijing. I was 21 and it was my first time living alone so it was a BIG move. I didn’t realise how big until after I’d done it and had no idea how to do anything. I had no idea what would happen next.
It can be a little hard to get things done during the Chinese new year holiday week. Many people leave town, and many businesses close. A normally full bike lane had a grand total of three bikes. It looked strange, almost eerie.
Think about it this way. The government bans your favourite holiday tradition. 13 years later you have children who have never experienced it, so you pour a lot of cash into preparing. Now, mutliply that scenario by about 5 million.
China welcomed me back with the smell of pollution, as always, and just one day in I could feel the changes in my sinuses and my breathing. Also, I kept wanting to say the Khmer word for thank you. I have never defaulted to Khmer before!
National Day holiday is October 1st-October 7th, regardless of which days of the week these are. This year, that’s Tuesday-Monday. Then the Sunday before and Saturday after become work days. Confused? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one.
Cigarettes are big business in China, which is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco. There are more than 300 million smokers in China. Over 60% of men over 45 smoke, and about 55% of men in general.
For months the other youth leaders have talked about how I need to get a scooter so we could be a scooter gang. A week ago, on a beautiful day, we all had a meeting closer to town and rode together – it was the inaugural ride of the Shunyi Pandas!
Xiao Chen thinks it’s great how much I’ve travelled, that I speak Chinese and enjoy Chinese food. What truly stunned him was my explanation that in western food potato is considered a staple (starch) food more than a vegetable.
In Perth with my sister I took a ferry to Fremantle – complete with dolphins, watched State of Origin, went shopping, visited a Beijing friend at a cidery in the hills, and saw a play. It was a great time, with clear air and cider. Then I went home.
I enjoy chatting with Xiao Chen while he drives me home. We have real back and forth, and both learn from each other. He asks questions and is happy to answer mine, and he follows up my comments with questions and genuine interest.
My church expects to lose 30% of the total congregation every year. Last year the youth group lost 50% of our regulars. Cleaning out phone contacts I removed 39 people without deleting recent graduates – from a phone only 9 months old.