It’s been one year now

Every day, before I left for this trip, I would go to work at Beer, Beer & More Beer which just so happened to be right next to some train tracks. These train tracks were notoriously busy and could easily add 10 minutes on to your commute as you waited for the massive train to pass by in front of you. It was always the same…you drove up to the tracks, with a bit of trepidation, staring at the railroad lights starting to blink and the arms coming down. You were trapped and there was no escaping. Sometimes, the train would just stop and you would be stuck sitting there at the huge Maersk cargo containers in front of you, waiting for the train to go again.

I used to sit there and stare at those cargo containers when I was stuck like that. It happened quite a bit. I used to imagine where they had been. “They probably started in China,” I thought. “Some girl at the Maersk office in Beijing organized a shipment with some guys in California and gave the order for a bunch of underpaid Chinese guys to work all day and cram a thousand Maersk containers on some huge boat in Shanghai. After two or three weeks, the ship arrived at Long Beach Harbor and the containers were unloaded onto this very train right in front of me. And off the train set, throughout California, causing thousands of minutes of delay to thousands of commuters as it chugged along its merry way.”

And so, let’s fast forward a year.

I sat in class, waiting for my student to arrive. The classroom was small, like a 4 or 5 person conference room with a whiteboard on the wall. I stared out the window at downtown Beijing from my 8th story window. Thousands of cars sped through the winding highway like little ants carrying food home to the nest. In the distance, I could see 20 or 30 new skyscrapers being built, towering over the city like massive redwoods in a forest recently burned down by fire – but where rain had washed away most of the black ash, leaving a melancholy greenish-grey in its place.

The setting sun had left the sky ablaze and pinks, oranges and reds twisted and danced together in the smoggy horizon.

And in came my student. I started the lesson, taught for a little while and eventually, we go on the topic of work.

“Where do you work?” I asked.

“Oh, I work for Maersk. Have you ever heard of them? I’m in charge of shipping,” she replied.

And with that, my trip came nearly full circle.

On that note, today marks the 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY of my leaving the United States for Ecuador, where I started this trip. Crazy, huh? It doesn’t seem like it’s been a year. It seems like it’s been a week, and I’m nowhere near coming home. In one year away, what kinds of things do you miss? I suppose it’s different for everyone, but for me, I miss getting in my truck or motorcycle and driving anywhere I wanted. I miss my wiener dog Mojo. I miss Capone’s Pizza. But I don’t miss much else. You don’t really miss people if you can talk to them all the time. I talk to my friends and family every day on the internet. I don’t get to talk to my dog though. You get the idea.

So how are things in Beijing? They are going really well and the weather has improved dramatically. When I first arrived, the sky was always grey and I didn’t see the sun for weeks. It rained a lot, too, and the heat and humidity were almost unbearable.

But now the season’s are changing. The weather is calming down and the humidity dissipating. Nearly every day for the past week has been perfect: with perfect blue skies, nice temperature and clean air – you couldn’t ask for more. It actually reminds me a lot of California. When you are outside, it just feels cleaner and crisper. It’s amazing how differently you perceive the weather if there is a blue sky.

Simon and Kat left yesterday. We spent our last night together checking out an English pub right next to my work. It’s really cool and has free pool, so I think I’ve found a nice place to go out with friends after work. We managed to get one last tourist sight in before they left, The Old Summer Palace, and spent the day wandering around there and getting burned by the sun. It’s actually quite nice – in my opinion, even nicer than the new Summer Palace. For one, it’s not as popular so there aren’t as many people there and because of that, it’s much quieter and more peaceful. There were these ruins from some sort of colonial buildings there and I got quite a few photos of those. After that, we went to all you can eat sushi for 6 dollars each and I stacked the plates up high. It was great. I ate 25 dollars worth of Sushi if I had paid separately. And mind you, we are in China, where everything is cheap.

We said goodbye and promised to meet up in London, where I have a free bed when I arrive at their place (central London, woo!). And that was that. Luckily for me, the semester is starting for everyone at the university right next to my apartment, so I have been seeing lots of foreigners walking around lately. It’s been quite weird seeing so many after three months of not seeing a single one, but I’m getting used to it. I’ve made quite a few friends and imagine that I will make quite a few more. It oughta be pretty cool.

One year…crazy, huh?

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