Trying to slot back into an old life
Way back in October 2007, I remember sitting down at my computer, terrified, and beginning to tap away at what would become my very first article for this magazine. A lot has changed since then: I’m no longer so intimidated by computers – or of writing – and I’ve ventured out to the northeast of England. Yet, seven months later, I find myself sitting in exactly the same place and on the very same laptop. Yes, ladies and gents – I’m back in Beijing!
Not that I’ve returned to the same city – in fact, it’s barely recognizable. From the moment I touched down in Terminal 3, it was clear the massive building work hadn’t stopped in my absence. The terminal, the stadiums, the new subway line, even the hutong where my family lives have all changed since I left for the UK. Living near Yonghegong means there is a shiny new underground station just round the corner, and for just two kuai a pop I can rediscover the city with more ease.
Interestingly, I haven’t had an urge to go to any of the major tourist sites. Perhaps that’s just a student lifestyle-induced laziness, but it could also be that over the course of the two years I spent in Beijing, I’ve been everywhere and done most everything a tourist should do and am now tired of Beijing’s prescribed culture. It just doesn’t hold the same wonder as before.
Certainly, I have changed as well, matured from the wide-eyed tourist I once was into the hard-knock Beijinger I have become (though it took me some time away from the city to realize this). Coming back to my family has, to be honest, felt a bit awkward, and various friends are all in agreement that returning to the folks after going off to university creates a complicated dynamic. The independence changes you, and your family changes too, learning to get along in your absence.
Coming back to Beijing has not been difficult, though, partly because I have spent much of my time lying in and wasting a large part of the day – I am a person that values sleeping highly. My parents don’t seem to share this appreciation of mine, however, and now into the third week of my visit home, they seem ready to get rid of me.
As my time back in Beijing draws to a close, it becomes more apparent to me that I will miss my family when I return to the UK, but I think on this trip home I’ve come to accept that change is inevitable and natural, maybe even something to be positive about.
If only I could change my parents’ opinion regarding the value of extensive napping.