I just posted about the five things I miss being in Beijing and I thought it would only be fair to look at the five things I’ve gained living here.
As my friend would cal it, “The dialectic.”
1. Seeing my brother, Robert and his family, whenever I want to see them: My brother has lived in Beijing for 6 years now. He has his own blog: A Man Called Su, which I suggest everyone check out and subscribe to as he has a different take on China than I do and he is also an amazing photographer. He is married to a wonderful woman and they just had a baby about 2 months ago. We actually live in the same apartment complex so we can visit whenever we want and go for walks together. Since we’ve been living in different countries for the past 6 years, it is a big benefit and reason why I moved to Beijing in the first place.
2. Living on the wild side: I had been living a pretty mundane life, in my humble opinion, for the last 5 years or so. I had received my Master’s Degree in psychology and started working. On a salary that averaged 43,000 USD a year, during that time, I paid off 65,000 USD in student loans by being extremely frugal. All while living in San Francisco. Not an easy feat! I didn’t travel or buy a new car or spend money on myself other than what were the basic necessities.
I’m proud of what I did and how I accomplished this feat because it was hard work and I wanted to be debt free as quickly as possible. I did it, exactly, 6 years to the day that I took the out the original loans. However, I wanted to break out of my shell and see a different part of the world. I was going to quit my job and travel down to South America first, then Cuba because I love the culture and salsa dancing, and then to Europe and over to China. It seems I have gone the other way at this point and that is wonderful. I have now seen the Great Wall, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven, The Forbidden City, not to mention Shanghai, Singapore and Malaysia. Oh, and I was able to stand on top of an oil rig in the the Pacific Ocean. Yeah, that was pretty cool.
I now get to live on the very wild side and experience a culture, people, place and life that I never would have thought was possible.
3. Jill: I met Jill eight days before I moved to China. We were both at the SF Caranval parade and waiting for it to start. I was also waiting for my dear friend, and ex-coworker, Jon-David. Jill and I started talking as she was getting information for her website and business, San Francisco Tourism Tips, and needed pictures for her page on the SF Carnval for next year. After an hour or so, Jon-David showed up and we all had a great time hanging out. All three of us went to lunch, I asked Jill out for a date the next day, and we spent the next 8 days together and she saw me off at the airport. We talked on the skype every and, within 2 weeks, she had booked a ticket to Beijing. On July 31st, she arrived. Things have been truly wonderful and being able to experience Asia with her has made it so much easier and enjoyable. We just celebrated our 6 month anniversary and, as far as I’m concerned, If you can travel with someone, it says a lot about the strength of a relationship.
4. The understanding, once again, that what I believe is a fallacy. My preconceived morals, values, ethics, are malleable and fluid. There are some things that I “believe” are the truth but it is not universal and each culture has a different take on how things should be done, what should be believed and how creatures should be treated. I come from my own ethical viewpoint but I love being challenged and having to figure out why, and how, I came to this belief and if it is actually fair. I work as a Behavioral Therapist and that is one of my core beliefs: What is right for me, may not be right for anyone else. We all make our own choices and have to suffer the consequences for those choices. It is up to you to decide and choose your path. If you don’t choose, you have still made a choice.
5. My new friends: This includes the wonderful Chinese nationals I’ve met and the expatriates. I feel as if I need to push myself more to hang out with more Chinese nationals and that is on the schedule since my work often has get-togethers and sporting events that I can go to and it is so easy to do that. Everyone that I have interactions with, including the guards at my apartment who always say, “Ni hao!” or “Hi!” to me and smile widely when I walk by, to the cabbies who laugh at my horrible pronunciation and say a word or two of English to me, it has been wonderful. I can not say enough about the kindness, elegance, and generosity of my coworkers, both expatriate and Chinese nationals. They are truly incredible and wonderful people who go out of their way.
As for the expatriates I’ve met in Asia, it is almost like an immediate second family. We are usually the oldest of the crowd, with Jill and me being in our 40s, but it doesn’t matter. We are both very young at heart and so we end up with friends that are in their 20s and 30s. We love to hang out, have fun, and try new things. We have friends from all over the world and continue to build connections and share with each other. If I had not come to China, this would not have happened and I wouldn’t feel like I was as much of a world citizen as I do now. I love feeling like I’m growing, moving, changing and learning more about myself, other people and the world. It is what I strive to do for the rest of my life.
The road not taken is the road I actually decided to take.