Few understand the necessity of having a good support network as well as expats. In the absence of family, we form familial bonds with friends, co-workers, and fellow members of sports teams, book clubs, knitting circles, charity organizations, and other interest groups. Though goodbyes are de rigueur, we counter-intuitively develop close and often intense relationships over relatively short periods of time.
When I first moved in Beijing in 2011 to study Chinese at Renmin University, it didn’t take long to find my place in a multi-cultural group of friends from Belgium, Israel, Finland, Italy, Germany, and Spain. We were inseparable, hanging out after class at the Korean-owned An Bang cafe on campus or in each other’s dorm rooms. We did all the typical student stuff, like standing around and trying to look smart at the Bridge Cafe’s ThinkInChina talks and getting barfed on by strangers at Propaganda.
I was devastated when the school year ended. We gathered for a last hurrah at El Nido and sat outdoors into the wee hours of the morning. When the first people started leaving, we hugged and cried and promised to stay in touch. I’d never seen so many grown-ups sobbing into each other’s shirts. It would’ve been funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Of that 15-strong group, only my friend Anna (now the development manager at Bethel China) and I remained in Beijing. We survived, of course, meeting new people and finding full-time jobs. As I progressed from intern to managing editor at beijingkids over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside many talented and inspiring people. For starters, there was Ash Lendrum from Sales, who left last February to pursue her twin passions of scuba diving and Muay Thai, as well as former Deputy Managing Editor Ellis Friedman, who recently published her first novel.
This month, I felt a swell of pride and admiration for my current team as we crafted together for the feature story and did a rare editor photoshoot at Tavola. Though she had to miss the shoot, our Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson is ruthlessly organized and always one step ahead – skills that no doubt come in handy when wrangling her two kids. Our web editor, Nimo Wanjau, can always be spotted by the sound of her distinctive and generous laughter. Our school editor, Yvette Ferrari, is by her own admission “bad” at crafts but ended up producing a beautiful Christmas garland through sheer diligence and hard work. Deputy Managing Editor Aisling O’Brien came up with the idea for a
homemade holiday issue in the first place, bringing her customary passion and flair to everything from the cover concept to the recipes and crafts themselves.
So this time, I don’t have a childhood story for you – just appreciation for the many families in our lives, whether at work or at home. The beijingkids team and I wish you a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and a fruitful new year.
Photo by Dave PiXSTUDIO