Some snapshots from a short trip to Beijing to visit family.
It’s a beautiful, chaotic city. This time I got a chance to see more of the old neighborhoods, some of the hidden gems in the city beyond the tourist sites (to be avoided at all costs in the summer, the ones that that trap both people and heat and offer the kitschy souvenirs). The one tourist spot I went to was a short and satisfying trip to the Summer Palace, highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Beijing. The emperor built it near the edge of the city to escape the summer heat, and it has walkways filled with paintings, ponds, and gardens galore. Lots of seniors go in the mornings to exercise, and my aunt tells me it is extra wonderful in the fall.
I went to the best silk store in the city, the original Beijing shumai restaurant, fully blooming lotus ponds, coffee shops that served more hot water than cold (ice water is bad for your digestion). A highlight was seeing a grove of thin trees that doubled as a strangely beautiful parking lot. Seemed random, considering it was just sitting there right next to a gas station. Like I said, beauty and chaos go hand in hand here.
I also saw so many beautiful scenes of daily life- dusty back alleyways, somewhat dingy supermarkets, my uncle’s mini-tea ceremony every morning… These are things that I perhaps have seen growing up, but never fully appreciated until now.
I had a lot to think about when I was there. How I am constantly in flux in between these two cultures, yet how I can somewhat easily fit into both when my parents, for example, cannot. My parents’ story coming to the U.S. and my childhood put into context, resulting in jarring realizations of how hard their lives were. How China is viewed by the rest of the world, and the reality of Chinese people’s lives every day. I struggled to dig deeper to understand the perspective of Chinese people, what they believe in, what they talk about, what they read in the media. The recent economic growth in China has changed people’s lives in so many ways, including the new influx of technology/smartphones, especially wechat. Mostly I felt like the country is in such a state of constant change and forward motion- maybe everyone is feeling so confused that I’m not doing too badly myself.