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Sunrise at the Great Wall

Hello. I thought I’d jot something down to let my close ones know what I’m up to and what’s been happening in my newfound intrepid life! I’ve been in and out of Beijing, China since early March and it’s been an incredible experience in so many ways. It looks like my time here is coming to an end for now as the school year is ending and I am pursuing another opportunity overseas (more to come on that).

Beijing is an incredible, metropolis-like wonderland with something for everyone. I would recommend to anyone that they visit this energetic place as there’s great sights to see and things to do, even though it can also be an utterly overwhelming place! I definitely think it’s better to travel anywhere with inside knowledge of the place and I’ve really enjoyed learning about the people, lifestyle and culture here and getting to do things that can only be done with local insights or a lot of time to do them. One of the highlights of my time here was this past weekend where a group of 10 of us got to go camping and hiking at a ‘wild’, secluded part of the Great Wall and watch sunset/sunrise and hang out. Very special!

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Ducks Dinner at Wada’s Japanese Bar

The expat community in Beijing is really cool and unique as there are people from all over the world here for different reasons. I was speaking to a friend today about the sense of community here and the fact that because there are so many young people here without families with a similar mindset and lots of fun stuff to do friends become like family really quickly and you get to ‘choose your family’, making great connections with great people from interesting backgrounds. The other night I was with some German friends and a Chinese Uni student discussing taboo subjects such as WW2 and topics that are literally illegal for Chinese to speak about (which sounds really saucy). Getting to know people from other countries and understand more about where they’re from and their culture is one of my favourite parts of travelling.

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Playing rugby for the Beijing Ducks has also been a massive advantage to living here as I was instantly welcomed into a great community of people from all over the world with similar interests and a love of sport, particularly rugby. Rugby is a developing sport in China and has a very small but committed player base made up of both Chinese locals and expats. There is a lot of potential for rugby and touch rugby to grow in China but because Chinese culture, social priorities and ideologies about sport are so different to what we are used to in the West it will take a long time before these sports can be a mainstream option. There’s some really interesting progress being made in small pockets around China in terms of growing European Gǎnlǎnqiú (橄榄球 ‘gǎnlǎnqiú’ is the name used for all western, olive-shaped ball sports such as rugby, NFL, AFL etc. which can get confusing for locals) so I might write about that separately. It’s been a fairly successful season for the Ducks winning a bit of silverware in rugby and touch around China and it’s a team with an awesome, inclusive culture and big things ahead! If anyone wants to go to Beijing to experience something different and play rugby I would absolutely recommend joining the Ducks.

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When I haven’t been travelling or playing sport I’ve been teaching at a Chinese school Northeast of Beijing. It’s been really interesting and another crazy experience. From a young age Chinese people are taught to think very differently to what we’re used to in the West. It makes for some really funny times as they will say and do things that I don’t understand and certainly don’t expect. It’s been cool to make connections with some amazingly affectionate, creative and unique young people from a completely different background to me who I hope to stay in touch with for a long time after I leave.

It hasn’t been an easy choice to leave Beijing having made so many good friends and having a fantastic time here but I’m excited for my next destination for the sake of continued learning and capitalising on my current freedom. Hopefully details about what I’m up to next will be confirmed this week but I’ve been saying that for the past month so fingers crossed!

China and Beijing will always hold a special place for me and I don’t really believe in goodbyes (apart from funerals which are fairly final and one-sided but even then depending on what you believe it’s still not really a goodbye so hence why I don’t believe in goodbyes) so definitely a thank you and ‘see you soon’ to this special place and all the special people I’ve been able to meet. I don’t want to single out individuals but if you’re reading this and you think you should be thanked or if we had a good time together then you’re most likely one of them! See you soon.

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