I loved living in Beijing, I truly did. But I also hated it. I loved the blue sky days, cycling around my hutong neighbourhood, stopping for coffee and craft beer, watching my elderly neighbours play board games in the summer evenings. I hated the disgusting pollution, the internet censorship, the politics and the fact that, quite often, everything was just a pain in the ass.
My feelings on leaving Beijing are slightly confused. I wouldn’t change my two years in Beijing for the world, yet at the same time I think: Did we, the couple who now live with our patio door permanently open, really put up with that smoggy air for so long? Did I, the woman who frets and rants about politics and human rights (often no one is listening, but whatever), really live in a place with such strong censorship and no proper elections?
I thought I would miss living in Beijing, but, while I have many wonderful memories from there, especially during the last couple of weeks of perfect weather and little work, I really don’t miss it. Not yet. I’m sure I will later once my new surroundings become familiar. Just as I now remember my time living in places like Korea, Venezuela and London as perfect, I’ll probably only remember the best parts of Beijing.
Parts like my hutong neighbourhood, or travelling through Sichuan. Already when I look at some of my old blog posts or read articles like this Time Out one (which is a rather good depiction of what it’s like in the Hutong) my heart flutters a little. But most of the time I am too busy enjoying my new surroundings by the beach to feel anything more but fond nostalgia and relief that the air is so fresh.
The last couple of weeks before we left were magical. I biked those hutongs more than I have ever biked. We revisited some of the tourist sights we had seen in our first weeks (I posted a photo on my instagram saying: It’s funny how you start off your time living in Beijing rushing around doing all the touristy things, then you end your time there redoing them again!). The weather was great and we spent every evening (school night or not) drinking beer and eating dumplings outside.
Those are the moments I already feel nostaligic for and will be the ones I forever hold in my heart. But no, I won’t miss the daily annoyances, the pollution or the cultural differences. I think our two years there were wonderful. And just enough.
Would I ever go back?
Before we left, as we lived out our last few golden days in Beijing, Justin and I decided we would try to return. Not to live, I don’t think I would want to do that anytime soon, but to visit. And I truly hope we do. We have grand plans to revisit our little hutong neighbourhood in five years to see if the hipsters have completely taken over, if the gentrification of Guluo Dong Dajie is complete, or if our elderly neighbourhood watch members are still sitting out there, red armbands on, making sure everything is in order.
Have you ever moved away from somewhere? Did you miss it or feel relieved?
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