Friday, September 28, 2007

End of an era

This is tough, really, this is a lot harder than I was expecting it to be. I'm currently in my flat, surrounded by piles of papers, foreign coins and clothes. I have a little over a week to go before I leave Beijing but I have to get things packed up as soon as possible. I'm shipping some of the heavier items to Spain and so this all needs to get done now.

I was expecting it to be physically tiring, but it has become emotionally quite draining. As the days tick by and my time in this amazing city diminishes fast I stop to wonder where the time went, how so many things happened in the last two years, yet it seems only last week that I stepped off the plane, into a country and a culture I had never previously experienced, with eyes wide and mouth constantly open to the amazing sights, sounds and smells about me.

Lots of things have happen, as can be attested to by the 300+ blog posts since I arrived here. I've written about ups and downs, more, thankfully of the former, but of course there have been many things I haven't written about, many friendships, many meals, many insights, many cultural faux pas, many nights spent wondering what I was doing here in the first place, and days spent wondering how I would ever leave.

And somehow it's all coming to an end, rather abruptly, or so it feels. I never decorated my apartment. I know it's rather strange but two years didn't really seem long enough to bother (plus, on a Chinese wage, spending money on household adornments isn't the first priority) and so it has stayed as a rather impersonal space, adorned only by my books, films and clothes. This, perhaps is why it's so strange packing everything up. Though the space seems to have no character, somehow the walls are ingrained with memories of the last two years and the piles of clothes are, at least, my piles of clothes.

I came to China not knowing a soul. I've made some lifelong friendships and there are people who will be very hard to say goodbye to. Ties will not be cut, but I don't know the next time I will see these good friends again. I certainly will be coming back to China some point in the not too distant future, but Beijing will no longer be my Beijing, I will be a casual visitor. I know this because I know how fast this place changes. The Beijing I see next time will not be the same one I leave.

I will miss many things about this place. I had planned to write a list of what I would be sorry to leave behind and what I would be happy to turn my back on, but that list would be far from complete and would trivialise so many ideas. If you want to know some of these details then I hope that the last 300 blog posts nicely summarise my feelings about this place.

I'm hugely looking forward to getting to Spain and starting something new, but the last two years has, as was inevitable, changed me in many ways I am unlikely to know until I return to a reality that I'm more used to. I'm not sure when that will be, and I'm not sure how the effects will manifest themselves.

I've promised myself that I wouldn't let my Chinese slip, but I don't know how practical that will be when I put Spanish in with the mix and have piles of work to be doing in Santiago. Thoughts of sitting in quiet cafes with a coffee getting on with my research temporarilly replace the waves of nostalgia I have sitting, writing this. We are the lucky few who land in a job that we get so much from.

Before I leave China I will be travelling for almost two weeks. Next week is a national holiday which I will work through, then I fly to Chengdu, in Sichuan province, on the 7th, to make my way to Jiuzhaigou national park where I will spend three days walking round the incredible scenery. Then back to Chengdu to sit in the tea houses and wander by the river before going down to Yunnan province to see some of the diversity of minority cultures in this country as well as the amazing South China scenery. It's going to be a packed trip, but it should be a lot of fun. Then back to Beijing for two days before flying to England and then almost straight away to Spain.

So, much to be getting on with, and this may well not be the last post about my feelings on leaving China.


dave said...


I've enjoyed reading your blog and meeting you last summer. Good luck moving, and have fun in Sichuan and Yunnan. Both should be beautiful. I'll be in Beijing roughly June 25 - July 30, helping organize the 2008 CSSS. If you're around then, let me know.

Anonymous said...

Biscuit! Feeling nostalgic myself, and I've only visited once. Feel like I've lived Beijing vicariously via the blog. Onwards and upwards!

helensotiriadis said...

beijing will never be the same!!

look out, spain....

Unknown said...

Hi Dave, absolutely, if I am back in the city I would love to come along. It was a great few weeks listening to some very inspiring talks and chatting with very talented students.

Hi B.A, look forward to seeing you in chez C+I and then out in Spain in just a few weeks.


I hope you continue to discover new exciting things in the city, there's a whole lot out there. Enjoy your current break.


Anonymous said...

The end of a Biscuit era quickly approches. Right, best foot forward. Vive Espain and all that. Roll on tapas, rioja and dancing like flamingos or whatever it is they do out there.
See you in Cowdrey Mansions soon.