After ten years living in the thick air of Beijing, I still remember not only what smog looks like, but what it FEELS like. There are physical consequences to breathing smog (which I suspect has affected my health more than I care to know), but there is also an emotional impact to living in a darkened world.
It’s been a week now since I left Beijing and arrived in Phnom Penh. All in all, it’s been a great first week – a great start to this “middle” time I find myself in. I am delighted to feel so at home, and look forward to engaging in life here while I can.
A lot of people have made comments along the lines of “but you’ll be back”. I hope that’s true, but I don’t know for sure. It’s important to me that I close this chapter well, that I don’t leave things hanging. I need this to be a real ending.
I haven’t read a lot of books about China, but these are the three China books I really, really like – and highly recommend to anyone who wants to understand more about China: River Town, Dreaming In Chinese, and China Road.
While I’m not excited about leaving China, I am excited about WHY I am leaving. As surreal as it is to be leaving the world I know and love here, I want to continue to grow – which means being me in different places, doing different things.
I love the reminder that this world can be small. It’s a good thing to think on as I prepare to leave the place where I met many of the closest friends I’ve ever had. Not bad thoughts to dwell on during my last visit to the Great Wall of China.
I am obviously foreign in a country whose citizens are, for the most part, quite ethnically homogenous. I stand out. Not everyone sees past it all and connects with the person underneath. I love when it doesn’t matter that I’m a foreigner.
These interactions are something I’ll miss when I leave. They make me love speaking Chinese, and the way it helps me think from another culture’s viewpoint. It makes me want to learn more languages, and live in more places.