comment 1

Big city livin

After a wonderful 5 week holiday back in sunny southern California, it was time to return to life in the Jing. I felt incredibly upset to leave my father, my very best friend, and I also had the regret that my time stateside was much too short… however, as soon as I boarded the plane, surrounded by Chinese citizens, I suddenly felt at ease. It’s funny to think that in just a year, this is my comfort zone now. I did not feel anxious boarding the flight to Beijing, I felt calm because I knew what to expect when I got back, and excited because I would be starting a new chapter in life as a city-dweller.

Since returning to BJ, I’ve been quite slow to unpack my new apartment.. but quite quick to jump into city life! It’s my first experience being a city dweller and I feel that quite literally, the world is at my fingertips. As someone who is quite fond of walking, there is an ever-present feeling of joy each time I leave my flat because I have the freedom to walk anywhere I need to go. Everything is easily accessible, and I am constantly exploring and expanding my new neighborhood radius. I have to admit, I haven’t even bought groceries yet, because there are so many restaurant options all around me! This is a beautiful thing because it serves a few purposes of fulfillment for me.. trying new things, good food, and being social with friends. My wonderful metropolitan friends are always up for getting outside their 4 walls and enjoying a bite or a drink. It’s a vivid expression of living, which I am basking in.

School has begun, and while I have a commute.. I also get to leave work behind (quite literally) and dive into a life after-work. It’s a bit more expensive than staying in all the time, but it is also rejuvenating. The evening becomes a time to connect with people, to workout, to get a massage or a manicure, to try a new Chinese restaurant, or enjoy a craft beer.. so while my job is my passion, I allow myself to live compartmentalized so that I can go to work each morning with a feeling of contentment, which (for the most part) alluded me last school year.

To conclude, my dear friends across the globe, I am happy, and I feel I’ve found a pocket of the world that fits me (for now anyway..) Life is never perfect, but it can be wonderful all the same. Sending cheer and love your way XX

comment 0

quick update

Beijing! Remember all of my complaining? Well, I must be on an upswing because I am in love. In love with this city! Blue skies and warm weather make everything seem happy. I’ve found a little apartment to call my own in the city center and I cannot wait to move in! Commuting to work will be a bit painful, but I’m so looking forward to getting out of the suburbs and living where people are!

comment 0

A challenge accepted

After an excruciatingly long, frigidly cold, and polluted winter.. spring has sprung. We have welcomed the sun back into existence in our lives and cannot stop but to be in awe of  blue skies. I have shed my bulky winter coat and feel less restricted in more ways than one. I must have forgotten what seasons were like, and don’t believe I’ve ever been through a harsher one in my life. It may sound cliché but I feel as if I’m brand new, refreshed, reborn.. a different human being than the one who wanted to hide inside away from the cold world. I’m once again antsy to breathe the fresh air outside and be a social creature.. to get up and go! It’s just lovely.

Even so, this winter I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling, saying “yes” to just about anything. Weekend trip to Shanghai, check! Weekend trip to Hong Kong, why not? I start to realize however, that getting out-of-town should be to explore and not to escape. I happened upon some dashing young men at a rooftop bar in Hong Kong, and immediately started venting about life in Beijing. They asked me why I would live here.. and my inebriated brain could not think of a justifiable answer. I suppose I said, to travel and to save money. How boring. I mean, these things are definite perks.. but they’re not specific to the Jing. Why do I live here.. and consider staying past my contract? It’s not just about the money.. obviously. In my right mind, and with a little sunshine to lift my spirits, I’m able to properly answer this question (even though the men are long gone). Beijing is a city of culture and history, unlike ever I’ve really experienced. Being able to delve into the foreign and the ancient is somewhat miraculous, and it happens to be at my fingertips. Yes, life here can be horrendously difficult at times, and yes, I find myself often dreaming of my cushy, easy life back in Cali.. but this, living here is the adventure of a life time. I’m learning a new language, tones and characters and all. I’m learning to successfully navigate relationships in a culture that is almost opposite of my own. I’m stretching myself in ways I wouldn’t have imagined, trying new things. To be honest, it may not bring out the best of me all the time, but it’s growth and that’s not always pretty. I sometimes tell people back home that I wouldn’t tell anyone else to move to China, and it’s true. I’m not sure many people could handle it. There are somethings that I really hate about it.. like the spitting!! Overall though, I wouldn’t change where I am. I really feel that this is where I’m meant to be for the here and now.

Looking at the past 9 months since I’ve been here, I’ve had experiences that were never available to me at home. Yes, I miss good Mexican food, and I miss my “tribe” terribly. But.. I’ve gotten walk around in the Avatar forest, float down the Li River on a bamboo raft, hike through miles of rice terraces with a minority group, stay in ancient towns, see the World’s biggest Buddha, and watch pandas play. It’s been so worth the complications, the loneliness, and the frustrations. It’s almost too easy to complain about life in China, there’s no shortage of things to vent about, especially when coming from such a blessed country like America. From now on however, I challenge myself to find the beautiful, the unique, the pros instead of the cons. The small moments, like watching old men fly kites high in the sky, which I love. Signing off to enjoy everyday life in BJ..

XX

comments 2

Happy new now

When you’re sick, really horribly sick, your whole day’s existence is filled with just trying to survive the time in between sleeps. I’ve experienced quite a nasty flu this weekend and am now on the mend. I’ve been ill about 6 times since I moved to China. My immune system does not like it here. Whether its the freezing cold weather, or the polluted air, or maybe even just new germs being introduced, I’m sure I’ll never know. But the question that begs to be asked now that my immune system is fighting back is, do I like it here? Some weeks, I would say no. Some times when people ask me how I like living in China, the most I can say is that it’s an adventure! And other times I don’t have the energy for that and just reply that living here is tough. Then those weeks pass.. they tend to be the really cold, polluted ones, and then I see sun and blue skies again, or I do something unusually fun, and all of sudden I’m once again totally impressed with my new life. I know it sounds a bit bi-polar, but its the honest truth. China is hard, living here is difficult, exhausting at times. Even the simplest, ordinary tasks such as grocery shopping or ordering food become unpredictable experiences that you must gear yourself up for and remind yourself not to be disappointed when something goes awry, because that is the adventure of China. Its a Russian roulette! Maybe, 5 meals in a row, you’ve successfully ordered edible (and vegetarian!) food to eat.. but be careful, because that sixth time they may put “just a little” pork in there, no matter how many ways you’ve asked them in Mandarin not to, because “its good for you!” Having an ayi is similar. My ayi comes once a week to clean my apartment, which is ridiculously affordable here. Yes, a total luxury that I will never be able to afford state-side. However, since we can’t communicate for various reasons (she’s illiterate, doesn’t speak English, my Chinese is rubbish, she only comes when I’m at work..), she does things that boggle my mind. Twice she rearranged my furniture (differently each time) for no apparent reason. She once moved everything around in my kitchen, and even though I have shown her, she has no idea where to put away my clothes, so most of the time, I can’t find anything to wear, because it could be anywhere! Now I know it sounds like more trouble than its worth but to be honest, I prefer not to spend my time scrubbing the tile floor of my entire, rather large 2 bedroom apartment. (I know, first-world problems..) So you see, it’s the yin and yang. I’m not sure I noticed it so much in my life back in the states, but it is ever-present here. The challenge really is just going with the flow, laughing at the inconsistencies, and keeping a positive attitude.

A new year usually brings about resolutions. “I will lose weight!” or “I will be a better friend!” Last year, mine was to move abroad, and here I am! This year, I’m not sure I have one. My goal (I suppose) is not just to survive everyday living in China, but to enjoy it. All of it.. or, well, most of it. (The constant hacking and spitting in the street is something I’ll probably not learn to enjoy.) I told myself when I moved here in August that I was going to be a “yes” person, and I have indeed become one! Say yes, and figure it out afterwards. Because of this, I have hiked the Great Wall 3 times, traveled around beautiful parts of China with friends I hardly knew yet, explored a large and confusing city, and successfully figured out the subway system. <<I recently read Wild, and while I’m sure I’m not up to hiking the PCT alone, I did feel that I could do something adventurous like that. While reading I felt brave and confident, just like the protagonist. I felt inspired.. maybe someday I will do something like that, to test my strength, to get out into the wilderness, to have another adventure. Now, I’m pretty sure this is a new development in my character.>> My goal in moving to China was to learn and grow and be a better me. I wasn’t too explicit about what a better me would look like, and some days to be honest, it feels like China brings out the worst me. It has a way of testing me. I don’t always pass the test. Maybe the whole experience is just molding me into a more culturally aware and capable, independent human being. I certainly feel like one. I can’t say that I know how to speak Mandarin fluently, and I haven’t learned how to cook Chinese cuisine yet, but I can live here! I can live here and have a life.. it looks so oddly different from life back home, but its real. At the end of the day, I am happy I took this leap and I am happy to be here. So that’s enough.. for now. All my love XX

comment 0

The 3 month mark

I have resided in China now for 3 months. After traveling around other provinces last month, I began to think of Beijing as my home. Just now am I starting to really be myself here. I don’t want to say “find myself”, because it is more like a remembrance. I believe it is a sign that I have settled more comfortably here and so I can truly be me now. Although I am still learning and growing, I am also falling into my old, beloved habits.

I have settled into life here by starting to do the things I did and loved back home- working out with friends, practicing yoga, finding ways to cook (even though my Chinese kitchen makes this quite a challenge) and more often than not, curling up with a good book and reading for hours on end. I have even found colleagues here who were keen to start up a book club. It seems that parts of who we are will come with us across oceans. They are as carved into us as the lines on our palms.

The growth comes with every trial. Life abroad would be challenging, which I was yearning for. With challenges, come frustration and sometimes pain or sadness. They are really tests; how will I get through this moment with grace? -or- Will I get through this moment with grace? (And if I have acted without it in certain circumstances, how can I make amends?) Sometimes it is doing that which does not come naturally to us; confrontation rather than avoidance, letting go of that pesky ego, swallowing our pride and opting for kindness instead. These are not all ingrained in me, but I am learning, navigating the space outside my comfort zone (which is where I live now).

Life here sometimes feels like you are just thrown into it, without much control over situations. What I am learning is how to control myself within these circumstances. I cannot make everything around me exactly as I wish, but I must keep in mind my ultimate goal of moving abroad which was growth, so I am learning to react to life differently.

I feel I am getting used to the juxtaposition of China. It is the epitome of the yin and the yang, in all aspects. Some days I am filled with joy and awe that I am here and this is my life now. Sometimes I am filled with frustration because life here can be difficult and confusing. It is all part of a beautiful adventure. The past 3 months for me have been supercharged with emotion, because that walks hand in hand with change. I am just now starting to feel more even. More centered I suppose, or maybe just more used to it.

The weather has turned cold here.. and as always I am missing those back home. Will write about more specific adventures soon. Thank you for reading XX

comment 0

Stages: 1, 2..

There are phases for people who move abroad. The first is aptly named: the Honeymoon phase. You have perma rose-colored glasses. Things that are difficult are met with a cheery disposition, because it’s all an adventure, and isn’t adventure wonderful? You learn and grow and feel confident. You are making new friends, learning a new language, starting a new job.. and instead of it being overwhelming, it feels like diving into life headfirst. It’s exciting, exhilarating. Everyday is a new day and everything is new and bright and sparkly. You are happy here.
The second phase is the homesickness one. The one where you count the transgressions against you that have occurred since you’ve entered this new place. The weight of the world feels heavy on your shoulders. You grow weary of the internet not working well, ever. It worked in America! You drop your phone and shatter the screen and instead of being able to get in your car and drive 10 minutes to a familiar store to get it fixed quickly, you realize you have no idea how to actually get it fixed here. Where to go? Of course, it will take 1 hour on a subway, with 4 different lines to get there. You feel frustrated, because life here is ‘so difficult all the time!’ Maybe your favorite baseball team has made it to the playoffs. You are happy when you realize you can watch them online from here, but then very angry when the spotty internet will not permit it. You cry when you realize your most beloved family members are all at the game together, and you would’ve been right there with them, if you had not chosen to move half a world away. You miss your family and friends bitterly. Your new friends are lovely, but they are new. They do not yet know you inside out and accept you for all the quirks and inconsistencies of your being. There is none of that unconditional love, which comes from all the hours over the years of spending quality time. You are fighting to be understood in a place so foreign to you, that you just don’t quite fit into yet. You are longing for the familiar, and longing to be loved, and to be near your loved ones. You realize that life has started to go on without you back home. The gaping hole you left behind is being filled by everyday life, and you can only hear about it from afar. You miss your family and friends bitterly. You long for life that is easy again, forgetting that you left that behind on purpose.. because you knew that outside your comfort zone was where you would grow.
You know this stage will pass, and you hope it is quick because you can see so clearly the juxtaposition between the first stage and the second, from optimist to pessimist. The next stage is realism, I am sure. Sending all my love back home.. XX

comment 0

Great Wall Adventures

IMG_6759

Nothing in China ever works out the way that you expect it to. This is a fact of life. Usually, it’s easy to accept and laugh about.. but it does make life just a bit more complicated.

My friends and I came up with a wonderful plan to see the Great Wall a few weeks ago. We would head directly north of where we live, to see the sections of the wall closest to where we reside. We wanted to hike up the mountain to Jiankou, a rough and unrestored part of the wall, and trek for about 4 more hours until we reached Mutianyu, a beautifully restored section. We hired a driver to take us to a town north of Jiankou, so we could hike for about 40 minutes until we reached the top. It was a beautiful blue sky day, very hot outside.

Unfortunately, there was an obvious miscommunication and we were delivered to a village south of that section. We attempted to get the driver to take us around to the north but he refused, as it would be another 2 hours in the car to go around. We then found a group of Chinese hikers who were going up to the wall and we decided to follow them. The way was incredibly steep. We were surrounded by green trees and walking up jagged mountain rocks. On some of it, we were climbing more than we were walking. The views were incredible! We reached a part quite high up, where one could easily fall off the side of the mountain to a possible death. At this point, our Chinese companions pointed at a rugged stone wall that they were going to climb straight up. It looked impossible. Two of us attempted it and found that it was incredibly difficult, especially as we were without any sort of climbing gear. We walked around the mountain and found one other, equally difficult path up. At this point, we really had no choice but to turn around. There was no way that all of us would have been able to rock climb up that sheer mountain wall. We were hot and exhausted, and this was some serious rock climbing that none of us were prepared for. The way down was so steep, that we were not able to walk down it, we had to slide down on our bottoms, crab walking some of it with our hands and feet. This was also perilous, as most of the way was covered in loose rocks and we kept unleashing them on whomever was in front of us. Let me tell ya, jagged rocks rolling at increasing speeds towards you hurt quite a lot when they find your body as a target.

Anyway, after another couple hours, we made it down the mountain, only to look up and see just how very close we had been to the top. We were starving, of course and stopped to dine at a busy and delicious Chinese restaurant. With some energy restored, we decided since we had planned to go the Great Wall that day, we were definitely going to see it one way or another. We wouldn’t let the mountain defeat us in that. So we called our driver to pick us up again and drive us to the Mutianyu section.

Mutianyu is beautiful! It is a very touristy part of the wall and luckily for us as we were exhausted, there were cable cars to take up to the wall. The view was worth all our trouble that day! The Great Wall is aptly named, as it is definitely a sight to see! Blue skies, green mountains as far as the eye can see, and the length of the Great Wall is incredible. This beautifully-made rock wall winds through the mountain, twisting and turning in its all its glory. We wandered around on the wall for a couple hours, took lots of photographs, and then rode on a slide down the mountain.

It ended up being a day of huge accomplishment, as all of us had pushed ourselves to the limit. We ended the day by seeing one of the most famous and beautiful sights in the world, and it was worth it. We are crazy enough to want to try the hike again-the right way of course! China can drive you crazy, but we do not let it destroy our spirits. Onwards and upwards!

IMG_6844