Reflections from a Seattle layover
For the third summer in a row, I am flying back to Beijing after two months of traveling. This year, the holidays have taken us to Europe and to the US and I realise that alas, my usual enthusiasm and excitement to reunite with Beijing has faded. I cannot help but to like the thought of the countdown that has already started in my mind. 10 more months and we're leaving China. I almost feel guilty about feeling this way. The strongest advocate for enjoying life and embracing China with all its quirkiness, loudness and craziness is having a liiiitle bit of a hard time right now.
I know it’s temporary. But just give me a minute to get that negativity out of my system.
I’m thinking about that moment when the plane touches down in Beijing. The air is likely to be polluted, I’ll step out of the plane switch on my phone and remember that everything is blocked in China – so I have to switch on my VPN in order to access Google, Instagram, Facebook, several news outlets – including the Hong Kong paper I write for and my own blog. Bye freedom of press – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed you the past 2 months.
After we get our luggage, we’ll get into a smelly taxi where the driver won’t help me get the suitcases into the trunk (which, by the way, will likely be full of his own junk). I’ll try to find the words again “wŏmen qu Chaoyang Gōng Yuán Xī lu 17 hao” (our address). I’ll be thinking about how I need to do some grocery shopping when we get home. Jenny Lou. One of two options where they stock western goods. One basket of the essentials such as milk, cheese and cereal will cost me a small fortune. As we approach Chaoyang Gōng Yuán Xī lu, the driver will be lost and I’ll say “xiàyīge hóng lu dēng yòu zhuăn – ránhòu zou zhuăn” (turn right at the next traffic light, then left) – at least that’s my, perhaps simplified, way of saying it.
Finally home. And the moment we step out of the taxi is when I trust that things will start to look up. Our super friendly reception staff will greet me. “Nĭ hăo Mòlì” (Mòlì is my Chinese name – it means Jasmine). We’ll take the elevator to the 7th floor and as we open the door to our apartment, our beautiful black cat Pumba will be waiting for us. 8 weeks is a really long time to be away from her. She might even be up for a little cuddle although that’s normally not her style. The apartment will be spotless, Our ayi (househelp) has taken care of that. I’ll be happy that we have a base again. After weeks of living out of a suitcase, we’ll unpack.
I’m lucky to have several friends in the building where we live. We’ve been in touch over the summer and have agreed to meet up as soon as we’re all back – and have a toast to a great (school) year and lots of fun moments together. I’ll also be rushing to see my darling friends (and Chinese class mates) Rebecca and Egle as well as my wonderful Danish friends! I’ll be anxious for it to be Thursday. Rehearsal with Jing Sing! Our a cappella group.
Next week the Cugnini family from Brussels will be arriving. They are doing a trip around China and will stay with us for a week. And our two kids who still live at home are excited about going back to school for their highschool freshman and senior years.
I’ll soon be busy. Have articles to pitch and to write. I want to work on the look of my blog (currently so boring) and I’m on the team of organizers for a big party for journalists in September where we expect over 250 people.
But most of all, I’ll be busy enjoying the last year in China. New trips, new experiences, a new process of discovering where we go next and who knows – that Chinese exam I said I’d take.
I’m smiling now.