Familar Disorientation

Dear All,

I don’t think I’ve let too many of you know that my family turned up in Beijing a few months back. Here’s a few choice takeaways and snapshots from our brief but frankly hysterical week together.

By the second week of January this year I had been living in Beijing for five months. It was not the longest I had spent away from home, but it was certainly the most disjunctive living-away I have done yet. And it’s not the huge things that get you (like, say, not speaking Chinese very well), it’s the little things that still make you disorientated this far in:

There are no standard measurements for new buildings.

Shiny tiles are the go-to covering for outside, wet weather areas.

Beijing food isn’t served with salt and pepper option.

Toilet Paper is not meant for the toilet.

Back in October, I chose to see this areas of confusion not as ‘weird’, ‘strange’ or ‘wrong’, but ‘serendipitous’, ‘whimsical’, and ‘delightful’. By January, this choice of attitude had proven to be fantastically appropriate and extremely helpful. So used to this way of thinking about the world had my frontal lobes become that when my mother and brother turned up at the airport for a whirlwind six day visit…I was not ready. I had a snap-back crisis of re-orientation to a familiar social dynamic. It was big, I cried a lot.

After greeting my little fam at the international arrivals gate with a ‘cooooo-eeeeee!’ (yeah, I did) and armfuls of winter clothing, I became immediately grateful of a second decision I had made in October: not to do ‘touristy’ Beijing until my family arrived. I had a whole six days of directing my whiplash-disorientation energy into a very entertaining family holiday.

Things I discovered this week, about Beijing, my family, and myself include:

Even the capital of the world’s largest Communist government will feel like home when your mum’s there.

My brother is adorable wherever he goes.

Even overseas, my mother will always overstock my detergents and toiletries shelf.

My mother is able to engage people of any age group, anywhere in the world.

Apparently I can sustain a two hour taxi-driver conversation about the Olympics with relative ease.

xx

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