Beijing. A whirlwind of colours, contradictions and engraved memories. Here, I feel both at home and far away from home. I blend in and stand out. All at the same time.
The development here moves at a dizzying pace. Shiny new marble buildings. Air-conditioned shopping malls. Entire areas torn down, renovated, rebuilt. Seas of luxury cars, replacing the once prevalent bicycles. New styles, trends, restaurants, attitudes and demands. Choice. Luxury. Consumerism. Intertwined with ingenious innovations and a deep yearning to thrive and prove itself to the world.
I am 31 years old this visit. I’ve evolved since the 9 year old girl who first came back to China with her parents. I leave this time with deep impressions of life, of death, and the passing of time. The click-clack of my grandmother’s walking stick on the hardwood floors. The sound of chopsticks and boisterous laughter at the dinner table. Delicious aromas, wafting over four generations under the same roof. Stories of my elders in their youth. Their history is magnificent but filled with the type of suffering I have never and probably will never experience. The Sino-Japanese war. The Cultural Revolution. Losing siblings, losing parents, changing paths.
In Beijing, I speak the language but do not know how to use the language. I cannot navigate the many layers of unwritten rules. Sometimes, I’m not even sure what the rules are. So, I just observe. I observe the concerted efforts in beautifying the city with lush greenery and trees. I observe the civility in how people offer their seats in the subway during rush hour. I observe that despite the great gap in the historical and cultural differences between China (my birthplace), Canada (where I grew up), and Switzerland (where I now live), a common language does exist. This language is beautiful and can be seen wherever you go. This language transcends, this language unites. This language offers empathy, love and hope. I spoke this language and received it. As I leave Beijing, I feel this language in the depth of my being.