Posted by William on 25. Jan 2012
It feels great to be back in Beijing! I recently completed an overseas placement for work that has spanned over 4 months over 3 different countries in Asia. Beijing was the final stop and I gained invaluable experience working in my field, networking with clients and colleagues whilst working five days a week for an internationally-acclaimed corporation. I now have a month and a half to spend in this wonderful city and I really am looking forward to meeting new people, learning more about the Chinese culture, and exploring the city.
Naturally, I miss home (especially my mother's cooking!) but being in the capital of China makes me feel happy. This is because I've had some personal experiences in Beijing previously, having spent exchange studying Mandarin when I was back in university. Furthermore, my grandparents and a small portion of my family work and live here so that's an extra incentive for staying in Beijing. In total, I've visited Beijing four times and each time I am imbued with a feeling of nostalgia, especially when eating some freshly-cooked dumplings that were handmade by my grandmother!
A particular memory that has remained deeply-ingrained within my conscience and left a lasting impression occurred in 2009. Whilst on exchange, I visited one of the numerous hutongs in Beijing and being hopeless with directions, found myself trapped in a labyrinth of narrow streets and winding alleys. It was in the middle of July so the weather was extremely hot and humid. With sweat trickling down my forehead, I laboured on searching for an exit. Eventually, I stumbled across a small snacks store which sold local Chinese street food. I was feeling a little famished from walking all morning so I settled for some jianbing and a glass of freshly-made sugar cane juice. Seeking refuge beneath a willow tree from the fierce sun, I stood quietly and munched on my food, gazing around at my surroundings and listening intently. I heard laughter and good-natured loud chatter from the common folk as they walked in and out of their residences. A baby could be heard crying in the distance and some birds chirped melodically in the willow tree I was beneath. People on bicycles and scooters would zip past, ringing their bells periodically. Nearby, a group of old men huddled together for a game of Chinese chess generated a lot of cries and sighs. As I finished the remainder of my jianbing and sipped my sugar cane juice, an old Chinese song played from the radio of the snack store. It was a Teresa Teng song - 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents My Heart), one I had heard my mother sing frequently throughout my childhood. At that moment, I experienced an indescribable calmness. Time had seemingly paused, right at this moment.
That's the feeling I want to recapture and relive over and over again. To me, it symbolises the beauty of simplicity because what I saw and heard was and felt so real. I guess in such a fast-paced 21st century that we live in, many aspects are life come and go like the wind, sometimes occurring so quickly that it can become difficult to slow down. However, this memory keeps me grounded and allows me to reflect in peace.
That is what always springs to my mind whenever I think of Beijing. That's one reason why there is a special place in my heart for this city.
I'd like to conclude this post by wishing everyone a happy Chinese new year. May the year of the Dragon be a prosperous one for you and your loved ones. The photo above is a snippet of the enormous family feast I gladly participated in on the 22nd January. Please try not to salivate too much!
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