As this is published I will be frantically running around trying to sort out last-minute arrangements for our move. We are leaving Beijing after three years here, and now we’re in our final week. Amidst the chaos, I have tried to find a moment to reflect on how it feels to be heading out.
I won’t deny there is a sense of relief. Once the decision was made, there was a seemingly interminable limbo period where it wasn’t worth starting anything new, but as everything else wound down there was nothing left but waiting. There are aspects of Beijing life I won’t miss; the pollution bothers me less than it does other people, but the choking traffic, and the length of time it takes to get anywhere, do get me down.
Some people when they arrive here already know they’re here for the long haul, others that they’re only staying for a fixed period. We came with no clear vision of our future. We’d never set foot in China before and had no idea what lay ahead of us.
We’ve stayed longer than we originally planned, and we’re not going home yet, not until the UK returns to some sort of sanity. We’ll be staying in China, which will let me stay in my wonderful job, and the kids embed their already excellent Mandarin. But it’s still a significant move, over 700 miles, to a different climate and a different lifestyle.
This nomad existence brings with it emotional costs… many people I grew close to in my first year here are already gone, and there are other friends I am only just getting to know properly as we are about to leave ourselves. Even my older son’s best friends are scattering, one now in Malaysia, another about to return to the US.
It’s tough on kids to have to make friends over and over again in new places, at new schools. I take comfort in the fact that, of the many people I’ve discussed this with, hardly anybody is still in touch with a friend from elementary school. Lifelong bonds, it seems, begin to form from high school onwards. Besides, kids now have social media and can maintain important friendships across continents more easily.
But it’s exciting to make a new start, away from the wearyingly familiar and the daily grind. It will be an opportunity, particularly for the kids, to reinvent themselves and leave bad habits and toxic relationships behind. We’ll be living by the sea, and will be able to make day trips to the beach.
We’ve signed up for two years. After that, who knows? Maybe we’ll settle there, maybe move on again. As a wise woman once said: “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see.
“Que sera, sera.”
Photo: Uni You