In a city with millions of inhabitants, it’s easy to get lost in the vast numbers and forget that those numbers relate to people. Beijing’s a melting pot of cultures influenced by people from far and near. The Beijing Kaleidoscope series gives you a snippet into the lives of both expats and locals to show their diverse perspective on the city they call home.
Cuiping Jiang is an ayi, who spends her entire day cleaning houses, but never loses her laughs. She is the fifth resident to be featured in this series. Having lived in Beijing for almost twenty years with the same job, she offers her thoughts about Beijing.
Why did you decide to come to Beijing?
When I decided to come to Beijing, my family were farmers living next to mountains in the South of China; I guess I wanted to step outside and look for more opportunities. I thought if I came to Beijing, I would have more opportunities for a better income, and things would be better.
How long have you lived in Beijing, and how long are you planning to stay here?
I came here when I was thirty or so old. If my child grows up and wants to go somewhere else, I’ll probably follow. But until my child grows up and becomes an adult, I’ll probably stay in Beijing for a few more years.
How would you describe life in Beijing and Beijingers?
Life itself in Beijing is very busy every day, where things speed by without you even noticing them. But I’ve gotten used to it, having lived in Beijing for so many years. I’m trying to stay strong and get myself together every day. I also feel like I have changed a lot since I came here. Before, I wasn’t very satisfied, considering my family’s financial status and everything. But I feel like life here at Beijing is getting better and better, and I’m more satisfied with my life right now.
Beijingers are very kind and caring; at my apartment, every time I’m out for work my neighbors would help me bring the laundry in, or do other housework chores for me. People like me live very simple lives, going out early in the morning and coming back late at night, so we can’t get most of our housework done. I’m very thankful that I live among them and I feel that I am very privileged to have such kind neighbors from whom I receive so much help from.
Was Beijing any different from what you expected?
It’s certainly much better than I had imagined. I tried to make a living in the South for a while, but I couldn’t find a suitable job and I couldn’t settle down properly. After I came to Beijing, I found a stable job, and settled down here. I’m very satisfied with my work and my life in Beijing. I’m also very proud of myself, and I think this kind of job suits me well. I say this not only because I can help people maintain clean houses, but also because the people I help are very nice to me.
If you could paint Beijing, what would you paint?
Rather than a painting, I would draw a huge smile with the words, ‘Beijing, I love you’ in big letters.
Beijing is a city of gratitude
The stereotypical lives of Beijing’s residents aren’t as many assume, negative, frenzied, or pressured. Jiang finds the city a place full of things to be thankful for. Sometimes, instead of looking at the big picture and considering everything, it might be best just to look around you and find small details that you can smile over.
Judy Jeon, was our July intern, attends the Western Academy of Beijing and decided to brave the murky waters of magazine writing. She is a writer in her school’s Roots & Shoots organization, and also leads an orchestra. With less than a year left to stay in Beijing, Judy is setting out to gather different views about the place. She likes to read, hang out with friends, and can be found exploring Chinese culture around the hutongs.
Photos: Judy Jeon