Sunday, July 12, 2009

4 years/4 años/四年 @ Beijing/Pekín/北京


The plane tickets have been bought. The relocation company has been chosen and a packing date set. After 4 years here (it was 4 years on the 8th, to be exact), it seems all that's left is to pack, and leave for Toronto! And reflect a bit on what these 4 years have brought me, too. Well, if excitement allows for any deep reflection, that is.

Being in China gave me the pleasure of seeing more of the world, in an obsessive impulse you know quite well by now. A car or a flat have I not, but places aplenty I've been to: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangdong Province (Guangzhou, Shenzhen), Macao, Shaanxi (Xi'an), Tianjin, Zhejiang Province (Hangzhou, Wuzhen), Hebei Province (Zhengding, Chengde), Shanxi Province (Pingyao), Heilongjiang Province (Harbin), Qinghai Province (Repkong, Niantog, Gomar, Senggeshong, Xining), around the Beijing Municipality (Tongzhou, Mentougou, Black Stone Village), Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Tokyo), Singapore, Cambodia (Siem Reap, Angkor), Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya), the U.S. (San Francisco, New York) and the Philippines (Manila, Gotozon, Loboc, Carmen, Corella, Panglao, Balicasag). And, the pièce de résistance before we leave, an 8th anniversary trip to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) and Bali. The globetrotter is satisfied.

Events-wise, it was a fruitful stay, too. Among many things: the 2008 Olympics, many operas, ballets and performances (Turandot, Madama Butterfly, Army of the Red Detachment of Women, La Fura dels Baus), festivals (the 5th Dadao Live Art Festival, the Tibetan Smonlam Festival, many Chinese Spring Festivals), exhibitions (of ancient Chinese dictionaries, Swedish art, Gaudì, Song Dynasty art, Middle Eastern treasures). The stimuli seeker is happy.

Language-wise, my spoken Chinese improved (my HANDwriting, like that of most who rely on computers now, has suffered beyond belief, though), my understanding of very difficult accents improved dramatically, I dabbled in Cantonese and, thanks to my 20-25min commute to/from work and the handiness of the ipod, I studied Portuguese, Catalan, Hebrew... The aspiring polyglot is calm.

Work-wise, I feel extremely lucky. I was granted the opportunity to help people, even in seriously distressing or disturbing circumstances. I had the chance of meeting our President and a number of high-ranking officials. I faced some terrible challenges, I got to see a very dark side of many of life's aspects and, as much as there were days (particularly in the beginning) where I was convinced coming to China had been a terrible mistake, overcoming that all has proven an invaluable learning experience. I'm grateful, and the diplomat is proud.

And, at a personal level, this whole experience has forced me to reflect and think about personal freedom, censorship, treatment of ethnic/linguistic/cultural so called minorities, identity, choice... I also lost a mother, I gained friends I know I'll keep in touch with through time and distance; I lost friends to jealous people, yet others passed the test of time with flying colours. And my 8 year relationship is alive and thriving. Personal-wise: growth. Good.

These have been four years of my life very well spent. I'm grateful. And so, therefore, borrowing a phrase from a colleague of mine, who in turn borrowed it from a well known Peking opera and film, I can now say farewell my concubine.