Wistful Beijing

Journalist Minna Nalbantoglu works for the largest subscription newspaper in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat. She lived in Beijing for four years and recently wrote on her column about her experience and what she will miss of Beijing. Here is the article translated into English.

Beijing View

Farewell Beijing. The autumn vomit stench of our block feels especially dear and wistful this year. Next year we won’t be in Beijing anymore when the berries of the ginkgo tree ripe and fall of the trees to spread their smell.

A lot of memories fit in the almost four years we lived in the city, when a weird city and it’s problems took on my nerves. But upon my leave mostly positive memories surface. On top of friends I will miss especially these:

Ritan Park. The crash course to Chinese culture and the living room of the nation is full of life. There, you can do almost anything without anyone judging you. Walk backwards, scratch your back against the trees, scream your lungs out on a hilltop and of course dance, sing and play musical instruments without hesitation.

Home delivery. In Beijing you get used to having everything delivered to your front door. Restaurant food, house plants, vegetables, face creams. Workforce is cheap and there are plenty of deliverymen.

Blunt Mannerism. Privacy is virtually unknown in China. At first the inquisitiveness felt intruding, but gradually the straight forwardness began to feel friendly. After all the quick Finnish greeting “hi” is quite distant, if you are used to: Have you eaten? Did work finnish already? shouted when bumping in to acquaintances.

Child Friendliness. Walking along the streets with two children and a push chair, on every block you get reminded of how fortunate it is to have children. Passer-byes put their thumbs up, smile and adore the little ones. The combination of a one child policy and traditional respect for descendants makes two children a subject of envy.

Our Nanny. The most wistful thing of all was the departing with our loud voiced female genie, the excellent Xiao Hong. She became like the second mother to my youngest son and for me she was an invaluable partner in everyday challenges. When adults were poring with tears, I tried to explain our confused first-born that to cry just means that we have had a good time and loving people around us. From all our memories the most will remain warm.

Original article in Finnish by Minna Nalbantoglu from Helsingin Sanomat (October 14th, 2012)

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