I just spent over 2 weeks working in Beijing. It is my fourth visit this year and I am feeling a bit sad to leave this time. I have come to enjoy the rhythm of life in this sliver of China, despite the never ending American Christmas music soundtrack at the hotel.
It might be because I can now direct a cab driver to my office without showing him a piece of paper. It might be because I had enough time to enjoy the social life Beijing has to offer (and make great new friends!). It might be the amazement I still have for a country that pulled their cities into the 21st century in under 3 decades.
I won't miss the smog, the traffic or the spitting. But somehow the graciousness of my hosts and the energy of the work environment makes it all worth it.
Two years ago at this time I was sitting in New York, dreaming about the next phase in my life. I set my sights on Australia as my base and Asia as my challenge. I started learning Mandarin at a stuttering pace and figuring out how to become an expat. I moved in April to Melbourne and was on a flight to China in June. My shipment from the US arrived in July and I have not regretted the move since.
Today I have a multi-entry China visa and a pile of frequent flyer miles. When people ask me where I am from, I hesitate. I am a global hobo. I was born in California, schooled in New York and now live in Australia 50% of my time and Asian hotels the other half.
There are days when I feel a bit lonely, but usually I am too busy meeting new people to feel that way for long. I have met oil rig workers, barristers, engineers, researchers, developers, salesmen and students. They come from all over the world and have great stories. We are united by the ease of travel in this hyper connected world and the common English that is spoken by international travelers.
I have learned not to make assumptions about the meaning of the words I speak or hear and I am always prepared to clarify a misunderstanding. The only thing that comes through universally is kindness.
Last month a new mate went out of his way to give me a ride in the pouring Melbourne rain. Today a stranger let me go ahead of him in line because I was clearly in a hurry. I have had my colleagues regularly go the extra mile to make sure I can get my job done. Once, a stranger rescued my stuffed angry birds from a bullet train in Japan.
So as I wander this world looking for the welcome signs for hobos like myself, I always remember to smile and express my gratitude to all the people who make it possible.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my family, old friends, new friends and colleagues. As always, I look forward to a brighter year than the one before, but this one will be hard to beat.
- ► 2012 (10)