It’s the longest break period I have ever had between posts, which is a testament to how busy life in Beijing has become. A little over a year ago I was constantly lost, didn’t have a job or know a single person here, and was one visa run away from heading home. Now I know more about the gems of Beijing than many locals, have worked on an array of unique projects with different companies, and have become friends with some of the most inspiring and supportive people I have ever met. I’m happy to say that every challenge has made me a tougher and more competent person, and I’m truly confident that we made the right choice in moving here and sticking it out in China. My bank account and lungs may not agree, but my mind and spirit do.

I know for the future that my personal survival pack for transferring to any new city must include:
-A map
-A bike
-Good cell phone
-Supportive company (got lucky with this one)
-Foreign Grocery
-Fun exercise group (here I love Heyrobics, The World Heath Store and Yoga Yard)
-Expat website or publications (The Beijinger and more…)

In trying to think about this post, I also came up with a few “you know you’ve been in China too long-isms,” so here goes:

-When you stamp your foot in a hallway when there’s a light switch
-You refer to your co-worker “Seamouse” without batting an eye
-You stand on the western toilet, because it’s too dirty to sit from all the squatters, and you don’t mind striking up a conversation between stalls, either
-You ride on your bike opposite traffic and weave through buses like an idiot
-You don’t wince (as much) when seeing a 2-year old stand in the middle of a scooter on a family trip
-Despite all efforts, you eat way too much rice
-You realize that Chinese people are not always mad at each other, they just speak in tones!
-You have become (almost) accustomed to hawking, honking and loud speaking, and feel like other cities are quiet.
-You insert “mafan” into English sentences because the meaning is so much more appropriate than saying “annoying”
-The answer, “because it’s China” has almost stopped inciting fury in your mind…and probably will next year

I’m dealing with a period of re-adjustment in many ways. I thought I would only be in China for a year, am trying to strike a balance between life and career opportunities, and understanding how to balance my Western desires with Eastern interests. I often feel like I’m cheating a bit living here, because I have transitioned from eating street food, living cheaply and learning a lot about the Chinese language and culture to working primarily with foreigners, living a quite comfortable lifestyle and indulging in things like western groceries and pricey yoga classes. I also work a lot more and travel a lot less. While thinking about all of these things, I constantly consider both sides to moving back to the US or trying to work in another country…but I still feel confident in staying here now.

I mean, I’m leading a group of Indian tourists on a bar crawl on Saturday night and a German family on a journey through Tiananmen and the Forbidden city on Monday…where else could I do that?! In between I will be furiously finalizing details for an educational student trip to Inner Mongolia, visa run to Hong Kong, and bike tour of Yunnan! Upon my return, the Chi Fan for Charity website will go live and I will soon be managing more events at The Hutong, ah!

Alright, in the future I plan on writing more about navigating Beijing as an expat, Charity in China, Traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese tea…but for now I’m pooped. Below are photos that nicely illustrate my attempts to live up the best of both Chinese and Expat culture here; Anne Baughman and I hitting up all the Beijing sites, Danny Boselovic and crew who flew in from the US for one night of DJing at Club Latte, the charity dinner I planned with Chef Jeff Powell at The Hutong and The People’s Olympics (an awesome, outdoor, big-kid field day event that friends put together in Chaoyang Park.)

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