After two hot, sweaty months in Beijing, I am returning home to Canada. Parting with Beijing, however, will be more bitter than it will be sweet. This city is a constant adventure. Saying goodbye to it has never been easy.
When I moved away five years ago, I had just finished 10th grade at the International School of Beijing. I sobbed against the airplane window as the plane left the tarmac and hated my parents for taking me away from the city I had lived in the longest, the place I loved the best. Adjusting to Canada – its public schools, its blistering winters, and its spaces that seemed to be devoid of any kind of history or culture – was far harder than settling in to China to had been. Nonetheless, I eventually gave up resenting my parents, and Canada became home.
Of course, one of the most difficult parts of leaving Beijing thinking I would never see my friends again. This crushing certainty turned out to be false; leaving China taught me one thing – if a relationship is strong enough, it will persist across oceans and continents.
If you’re leaving Beijing this summer or have good friends that are moving away, be sure to explore areas of the city you’ve never been to as well as revisiting favorite haunts.
Spend a day at Chaoyang Park, the largest green space in the city. Relax under weeping willows, take a boat ride across the pond, or walk on water in giant, plastic balls. Chaoyang Park will be home to the Olympic beach volleyball tournaments and its Olympic area is worth checking out. If you’re feeling brave, roller coasters guarantee a thrilling ride. Ladies Street, or Laitai Flower Market, is nearby if shopping is more appealing than being outdoors.
If you want to take one last trip with the friends you fear you’ll never see again, trek out to Beijing World Park in Fengtai district. It’s a long way from anything and is a bit tacky – it’s filled with large models of the world’s most famous landmarks and has been known to blare techno beats from hidden speakers. Yet, the park offers well-kept greenery, and who doesn’t want to pose under Beijing’s very own Eiffel tower or sit atop the Sphinx?
After a full day in the summer sun, Guijie Street, or “Ghost Street”, is a great locale for late night snacks. Red lanterns and flashing signs light up the night sky and summer diners line the sidewalks. Grab a group of friends and join the locals for a quality Beijing meal.
The opportunities for summer playing in Beijing are endless – whether it’s your last summer here or your first, be sure to put them to good use!