I can’t believe that we’ve already been living in Beijing for six months now.  In those short six months, we have seen and done so much.  We have a “to do” list that seems to continue to grow!  We may just run out of time before we get to everything we’d like to do. 😉

Looking Back

Before moving to Beijing, I went back and forth with my feelings toward the move.  I went from unsure to excited to impatient to whatever back to unsure and finally ending on mixed feelings.  While I was sad to leave behind my family, friends, (and my horse :'(), it was also exciting to start this new adventure.  I must say, I have been loving this adventure since we arrived six months ago.  (Side note:  Now, it’s not to say that there isn’t the occasional day when I may be annoyed at something, but let’s be real–you can get annoyed anywhere.)

Why do I love it so much here?  

Let’s see…

  • It’s a cool city with SO much history!  Truth be told, I’m not the biggest history buff, but it still is pretty cool to visit these places that are ancient.
  • You don’t have to feel rushed with your sightseeing because you live here.  You can find places that others may not have time for.  We’ve been to the Great Wall three times already (three different sections too) and plan on doing more.
  • There is SO much to do here!  From sightseeing to shopping(!) to seeing plays to walking in the parks, there’s practically something for everyone.  I am so happy that I get to continue to horseback ride while living here.
  • Speaking of shopping, there are some cool things to buy from the inside glass paintings to silk to pearls.  So fun (although bartering-not always ;-))!
  • I’ve met some really great people.  It’s always nice to network and expand who you know.
  • I have the chance to live in a city, just like living in a city back home (at least I would assume that this is what living in a city back home is like since I have always preferred the suburbs!).  While the suburbs would probably still be my number one preference, it’s still cool experiencing city life where you can walk pretty much wherever you want.  Want to grab dinner?  Just walk down the street.  Want to go shopping?  Walk on over to the mall.  Need a snack?  Head to the corner store.  There is so much available within walking distance or via public transportation which is also easy to use.
  • It’s pretty cool learning another language and then applying what you’re learning.  While the language is very challenging, it’s quite the accomplishment being able to communicate with someone else.  So proud!
  • I also think it’s awesome to live on the other side of the world in a completely different culture.  How many people get to have this experience?  It really opens up your eyes to things.
  • The dogs love it here too, so that always makes me happy. 😉

On the other hand…

So there are some downsides to living here, but I try to find the positives in what may be viewed as a negative.

  • It’s crowded (what city isn’t)
  • Road rules aren’t exactly followed (makes it exciting playing the real life version of Frogger, lol)
  • You don’t always get to hop in your car and drive somewhere (but hey, there are so many other options from walking to taxis to the subway to buses)
  • When you do drive, there is usually quite a bit of traffic (just like living in D.C. though, there are good times to drive and bad times to drive and times when you just can’t predict!)
  • You have to be mindful of the drinking water (but we have big jugs of water and can easily get bottled water).
  • People spit (eh…yeah, that’s gross)
  • Air Quality is not always great (but it’s definitely not as bad as I thought it would be, but it is certainly not always how I would want it to be.  I’m thankful to have masks and air filters).

There are certainly some negatives but I don’t think they are huge (well, except the air quality).  I don’t want to dread on the negatives because it is just an amazing experience that I want to continue taking full advantage of!

What I’ve Learned

I taught in a school that was very diverse with families coming from so many different countries.  I think I had a class one year where the families came from 17 different places.  I found that to be quite interesting.  I’ve always been mindful and aware of other cultures; however, I have a new perspective on those families coming from different cultures and experiences.  I’ve learned that it is one thing to be mindful of different cultures but it’s totally another thing to actually experience another culture.  It definitely gives you a different perspective.  I am thankful for this experience as I will take what I’ve learned back with me one day.

I think this experience is all in what you make out of it.  Being a place that is similar yet so different (if you can imagine that—again, experiencing it firsthand gives you a slightly different perspective) could prove a challenge.  I just know that I want to make the most out of my time and learn some of the culture too.  I’m glad I’ve had the chance to try calligraphy and tai chi as well as to visit places.  There is just so much to do if you look (and even if you don’t look).

The List

I think having a must do list has contributed to making the time feel like it’s flying by as we have had lots of plans to make and lots to look forward to.  We’ve hit the major sights in Beijing and have traveled to Harbin, Tianjin, and Chengdu.  We have plans to visit other countries that are close to China (like Mongolia, Japan, and South Korea), but we also want to explore more of China itself too-specially, places within driving distance to where we are living.  Since we’ve pretty much seen all the touristy spots in Beijing, we want to find those hidden gems as well.

Looking Back on Sightseeing

When we first arrived at the very end of October, we managed to catch the tail-end of fall.  We then made it through our first winter, and now, we are finishing up our first spring.  Thinking back on it, we actually arrived at a great time of year.  With holidays approaching, it helped to take advantage of those days off by sightseeing.  And with it being the end of fall/winter, that also meant that it was off-season for all of the touristy places.  From the Forbidden City to the Summer Palace to the Great Wall, it was so cool to go exploring all those “must do” sights in Beijing without hordes of people.  That’s just one cool aspect of living in another city–you don’t have to feel rushed with your sightseeing and can go when you’d like.  Plus, you can easily go back to see those places again and visit them during different times of the year.

Beijing’s Seasons

As far as the seasons go for sightseeing, I’ve found in general:

  • fall has good temperatures (at least comfortable to me!) but not always good air
  • winter is the least crowded but it’s colder with not the best air
  • spring is lovely with pretty flowers and warmer weather and pretty decent air too but the crowds are starting again
  • summer is…we’ll see!  I think it’ll be pretty hot (and pretty crowded) though.

Side note:  I’ve determined that if I had to choose whether I’d rather live in a climate that’s always hot or always cold, I’d go with cold.  I think this summer might do me in!  I just can’t take the heat.  At least in the cold, I can layer up!  And can you imagine wearing a mask on a hot day?  Not looking forward to polluted summer days, so here’s to hoping that the air keeps pretty clear!

The Next Six Months

The next six months will get us through summer and into our second fall.  I am looking forward to traveling more and seeing more of this city.  It’s cool to visit the Great Wall during the different seasons to see how it changes.

I never imagined myself living overseas (and I honestly wasn’t thrilled in the very beginning) but I sure am loving it!  It is such a wonderful experience, and I look forward to what else is to come!

(Side note:  In the past six months, I’ve had the chance to hold a snow fox, cuddle with a panda, who knows what’s next!?  Maybe a koala…)

TOTE:  Think about the cool moments (no matter how small) you get to experience wherever you may be!