I hadn’t quite intended to let this blog slide into neglect for so long. First it was returning to work after a very long break when Dylan was born. Then it was the realization that my little school had all but fallen to pieces during my absence. Then it was the decision, agonizing as it was, to look for new work. And then, my interview with a company in Beijing, the return to Kunming, and the heartbreaking decision to leave the city which had been my home for the past five years, to say goodbye to my husband’s hometown, to the city we were married in, to my son’s birthplace, and to somehow manage to pack our lives into seven huge boxes and, within two short weeks, move someplace else.
We’ve been in Beijing for almost two months now, having arrived here at the beginning of April. I think the move has been harder on me than it has my husband, even though he’s it’s native son, and I’m merely an adopted daughter. Perhaps leaving Kunming reminded me in a way of my first move, as a teenager, from Charleston South Carolina, to Dallas Texas. It was certainly equally shocking to the system, a move from a place of great natural beauty to a concrete metropolis. I hated Dallas then, for taking me away from the ocean, for depriving me of humid marsh-spent summers and our bamboo forest in the backyard, for it’s dry-heat and it’s pavement and the never ending construction on I-75. And this past month I hated Beijing a bit too, for it’s dust and wind, for it’s lack of mountains, for the awful-ness of the local dialect, the blandness of the food, the lack of “ga” and “ge” and insufferable arrogance of a city made of money. Dallas and Beijing have, in fact, a lot in common. As a teenager, although I made friends in Dallas, I never learned to love the place the way I loved Charleston, and later on, Austin, and finally Kunming. And now I find myself dreaming of Kunming the way that I, but most of all my parents, must have dreamed of, and mourned for, Charleston.
At some point in our adult lives most of us have probably lost something in the persuit of larger paychecks, of security, of the greener grass on the other side. I am now working close to 12 hours a day, and with a young baby at home, this is not easy. Nor is it easy leaving behind friends, our only Chinese family, and Kunming herself. I understand now, more than ever, how much it must have torn at my parents’ hearts to take us away from our family home in Charleston when the economy finally said enough is enough and made it impossible for them to earn a livelyhood there. Back then, I fought them every step of the way, pleading with them, demanding even, that they not move us. I fought with myself similarly. When my husband came to the airport on our little black moped, to pick me up after my interview in Beijing, and I told him the news, that yes, they’d given me the job, they wanted me to start in two weeks, and saw in his reaction that there was no going back, I cried silently, on the back of the moped, watching the city go by, first the hotels, then the internet cafes, and the bike shops and the bread shop and the corner store and the river by our house, knowing I was losing all of this. That from this moment, it was no longer mine, that I had traded it all for a fat paycheck and the fast track. I wondered if it was all worth it.
And I still wonder. I don’t have that answer, not after a month and a half in Beijing. There are days when I suspect that if someone handed me a ticket back to Kunming I’d be on the next flight out. There are days when I realize that no one has to hand me the ticket, if I wanted to go back, surely I could, and yet I haven’t. There are days when Beijing and the job and the new life seem alright, and I think, perhaps we could live here afterall. And then the wind blows, and the dust gets in my eyes, and I’m back to planning our escape.