My 4 months in Beijing are up.
December was a hurried month, I’m honestly not even sure where the time went. It was filled with getting papers written, flyby English teaching sessions, packing, buying presents, mailing presents, mailing stuff to Taiwan, figuring out how to afford Taiwan, figuring out how to afford New York, seeing friends, saying goodbye to friends, figuring out where I stood on different situations and scenarios and what exactly it is that I want to do with my near future.
So you see, there wasn’t much time to realize that time was up.
But now that it is, I can look back and realize what I gained in China.
I learned a lot in Beijing.
I learned about teaching, and how to spend time with kids. I’ll miss the kids that I was teaching; I was worried that I hadn’t really made a connection, it’s hard to tell when you speak a different language, but on my last day when they found out I was leaving they were all hugs and requests for me to stay. One quiet little girl went over to my bag and put something inside it, but said I couldn’t look until later. When I got home, I found a letter she had written saying how much she wished I would live in Beijing and continue being her teacher. She even wrote that my Chinese was improving (which is definitely not true, but sweet all the same).
I learned how to accept things, to take a deep breath, remind yourself that there are good things and bad things everywhere you go, and just because you’re dealing with a mob of people pushing and shoving and spitting in one minute, doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful people and places that you can take refuge in close by.
I learned how to be more independent, and how to march up to someone and tell them how it’s going to be, to stand up for myself, to get things accomplished. I can find a job and keep a job, I can use skills I didn’t even know I had to make myself marketable. I might not be able to bargain at the Silk Market to save my life, but I can find my way through a city where I barely speak the language, I can register at a police station, play charades at a bank window, and negotiate with irritable taxi drivers all without English.
My last day in Beijing was a beautiful day. The sky was blue, the wind died down, the people were smiling and the crowds were thin. I think the city wanted my final view to be a good one.
I didn’t expect to miss Beijing. It was a place that I wanted to see and experience, then keep moving. But as usually seems to happen, I found things to want to go back to. That’s the trouble with traveling, but it’s also what makes it all worthwhile. I’ve been lucky so far— to meet incredible people that I’d never have met otherwise.
I miss them. But I’m thankful that our paths crossed for a little while, and I can hope that they do again someday soon.
And so, goodbye Beijing. Thanks for the lessons.