Kyle and Emily Driggers
Children: Sydney (age 6), Stephen (age 4), and Aubrey (age 2)
Background: This family of five is originally from the US, though the two youngest were born in Beijing. Kyle originally came as a language student, but now teaches at a local university called Beijing Geely University (北京吉利大学). Emily is a stay-at-home mom.
Where do you live? We live in Changping, also known as Beijing’s “backyard garden” because it sits just to the south of the mountains that lead up to the Great Wall. It definitely feels like a slightly calmer, more natural, and slightly less polluted side of Beijing. We are able to find most of what we need by simply walking out the front door.
Have you ever lived in other neighborhoods in Beijing? We moved directly here from the US. We have friends who live in Haidian and Tiantongyuan, whom we visit often. It’s hard to compare since we haven’t lived there, but Changping seems far less congested. There are more green spaces and better access to grocery stores, shops, and restaurants. This does come at a cost though; both of those areas have foreign grocery stores, [Western] restaurants, and great expat communities.
How often do you go into the city? We go into the city at least once a week to attend church. If we are going for date night, we almost always find ourselves in Houhai taking a walk around the lake, [eating at]Hutong Pizza, and sitting outside at Starbucks afterwards.
Kyle’s favorite place to meet friends is at The Bridge in Wudaokou for breakfast; there’s a group of guys he sees there almost every Wednesday morning. Emily’s favorite place for a night out with the girls is at Element Fresh in Sanlitun. If we are with the kids, we like to keep it simple and go to Steak n Eggs or Pinnacle Plaza after going to Capital Community Church in Shunyi on Sundays.
How do you get around? Owning a car has been essential for us and helps us stay involved with our friends and churches (Beijing
International Christian Fellowship Zhongguancun and Capital Community Church). There are no Western grocery stores in Changping, so we make a run to Jenny Lou’s every few weeks.
Where do your kids go to school? Our daughter Sydney goes to a Chinese preschool called Beihai Changfang You’er Yuan (北海昌房幼儿园). [The curriculum] is in Chinese, so it was a bit of a transition when she started school at age 3.5, but she picked up the language quickly.
Her Chinese is great now. We would definitely recommend the school to anyone living in the area; the facilities are nice and the teachers care about developing creativity, joy, and a sense of community in the children. Sydney goes to school five days a week, and we either walk there in the summer or drive in in the winter. She will be starting first grade next year and we will either home school or send her to Hope International School in Shunyi.
What fun things are there to do in your neighborhood? We love living in a part of town where we can be hiking in the mountains in ten minutes, push the stroller to the grocery store, let the kids play in the park, and stop for dinner at our favorite jiaozi restaurant on the way back. There is also Changping Park (昌平公园), which is a great place to take the kids for a stroll. It’s always full of people selling
balloons and there are [inflatable]kid-sized hamster wheels on the small lake in the park.
Do you ever wish you lived downtown or in Shunyi? It would be nice to have a Starbucks nearby, but living [in those areas]also comes with a lot of hustle and bustle. There is a lot to be said for a part of town that is livable, natural, and a step off of the beaten path. For our family, [Changping] has been just what we were looking for.
Do you see yourself living here for a while? We love Changping and would love to live here for a long time. As our kids get older, however, we will probably move to Tiantongyuan or Shunyi if we want to send them to an international school.
photo courtesy of Kyle Driggers