Anti-parent maniac? Not quite
Some might say that once a girl enters the teen years, she transforms from daddy’s little girl into an anti-parent maniac who tries to get as far away from home as possible. That’s not entirely my story, though there might be an element of truth in that.
Speaking for all teens with a globetrotting itch here, it’s a little more complicated. Yes, I’m a teenager, and yes, I yearn to leave Beijing after years of adventurous journeying between Hong Kong, my first home, and Beijing. But instead of labeling me a rebel, let’s just say I long for more independence, freedom and change. I’ve made Beijing my home for almost four years now, which is exactly the reason why it’s time to move again. Truth is, I’ve never stayed in a school for more than three years. As Barack Obama would say, it’s time for me to ask for change and create a difference.
I’ve often wondered what attending a boarding school overseas would be like. How would it feel to live 24/7 among peers – waking up, studying and dining together day after day? Extracurricular activities at boarding schools seem broader than what Beijing can offer, and the sense of community would also be greater, what with dorm meetings and bonding over hiking trips. Exploring a new city also appeals to me. Walking on the streets itself would be an adventure, and the new buses, subways, and even the street lamps would have their distinctive personality. Of course, there’s also the interacting with the locals, tasting their food, and searching for the story behind every person.
On the other hand, the feeling of being lost and far from family will inevitably resurface from time to time. Would I wonder whether it was really worth the loneliness?
Looking back, I still remember arriving in Beijing after having spent my whole life in tropical areas. In Beijing, my first experience of snow took place on Christmas Day – those little white flakes were a big deal to us tropics dwellers.
Apart from feeling that I live in a freezer for half the year, I’ve come to enjoy being a Beijinger. I’ve identified the city’s unique smells – the wood-and-spice of Chinese restaurants, cool air and grass when I stick my head out the window – and grown accustomed to the skyscrapers along the horizon. I’ve enjoyed the expatriate life of privilege, but since I’m an ethnic Chinese, I’ve also avoided being spotted as a foreigner by locals.
Settling down in a new environment seemed scary at first, but I learned that each of us controls the experience we have in a new place. Likewise, it’s not the city, but what you have collected along the journey – both concrete and intangible – that makes up a home.
For now, I believe I’m the type of person who’d always want to travel around and make my home anywhere and everywhere. So here I go again. Hong Kong was my first home. Beijing is my second home. Can I find a third home while enjoying all that the place has to offer? I am ready to soar over the Pacific (or the Atlantic), and do whatever it takes to follow this new dream.
Truth is, I’ve never stayed in a school for more than three years. As Barack Obama would say, it’s time for me to ask for change and create a difference.
Hong Kong native Helen Leung, a Grade 11 student at the Yew Chung International School, has lived in Beijing for three years.