Posted by: thelocaldialect | May 30, 2008

Now from Beijing

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.


  1. Nice to see you’re back. My dh and I went to Beijing when we adopted our daughter and it really is drab and depressing looking. By comparison, Chongqing was so green and lush. Lots of construction too but it was beautiful.

    I can really sense how hard this has been for you. I gave up my job, steady paycheck, free medical for my daughter, in order to be able to stay home with her. It was a tough decision to make, especially now after my dh was laid-off last June and his new employer offers no insurance. An extra paycheck would be really nice about now, but we are hanging on to what we feel is right for us to do, and that is me being home with her.

    We all have to make sacrifices sometime and you are doing what felt right for your family. Give it some time. Change takes time to get used to.

    p.s. No baby pics? What the heck? lol

  2. Hi! I’m so glad you posted a comment on my blog. I had been checking yours for a while and was excited to read about your life in China, but I thought maybe you had abandoned blogging life. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your posts- you write beautifully and I can totally picture Kunming. I’ve been to Beijing for a visit and can relate to the dust/wind. It made me so tired and it took forever to get the dust out of my coat. I was also interested to hear that you are originally from Charleston. I went there when I was ten and my family and I really liked it. Such beautiful buildings. Never been to Texas though, but I do often hear good things about Austin. Anyways, I’ll look forward to reading your blog at its new address. By the way, do you know what’s going on with the FWC site? I haven’t been able to get on!!!

  3. I don’t remember how I found your blog, but I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy it. I’ve never been to China, but I’ve lived abroad and could relate to so much of what you said. I’d love to read more updates–though I’m certainly not one to talk since I’m currently neglecting my own blog!

  4. Just wanted to say I’m glad you are back to blogging!! I’ve missed your posts!!

    Sorry to hear about the all around icky-ness regarding your move. It must be really hard to up and leave a place with so many memories.

    But I’m sure that wherever you go you will be able to create a lot more!! Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  5. Wow – that’s got to be tough – especially working 12 hr days with such a little baby at home (who sure is cute BTW!)

    I know what you mean about certain cities just having the ‘it’ factor for you. I live in Rome and lots of people just looove it here. It is an incredibly beautiful city but I still miss New York. I loved New York for some reason whereas Rome is just ok – it’s not like I go and look at the Pantheon every day or anything (and I can’t afford to live in the historical center anyway!)

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