We had blue sky our first day in Beijing, and blue sky returns to see us depart today. Coming back to Beijing after having traveled for two weeks, the city seems a little more navigable, and the few Chinese phrases we’ve learned do us well. Our plans to visit the Great Wall were stymied by constant drizzle, but staying inside and catching up with friends has been wonderful. For the past three weeks, I haven’t slept more than two nights in the same bed, and I’m looking forward to going back to home and real life, but there’s so much here I’ll miss. The food – from nice restaurants, to street stalls run by members of China’s Hui Muslim minority in Xi’an and Kaifeng – has all been good, sometimes spicy, sometimes comforting, but all good. Knowing that I can’t just wander out and find a bowl of fresh hand-pulled noodles with beef and bok choi for under a dollar, that’s depressing. I’ll miss the people – the language barrier made it difficult to connect with at times, but never impossible. I’ll miss the friendliness and the bluntness I’ve come to appreciate. I’ll also miss the sights: old people doing tai ji on random scraps of grass in the midst of the towering gray city; temples full of ancient statues and modern worshippers; even the frantic growth of buildings and businesses, feeding on the shared belief that China is the future and the future is now.
I’m exhausted from the struggle to do simple things like get on the right bus or buy a cold bottle of water, but my two-word Chinese vocabulary has grown, as has my confidence. Today, Colin woke up early and went on a walk, past the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, to a group of elderly gentlemen sitting with pet birds. “Zaijian” one of the birds squawked at Colin. It means “Goodbye.”