Beijing is a brilliantly fast-paced, intricately complicated, and amazingly diverse city. Beijing has 22 million citizens occupying the streets, the subways, and the apartment buildings. Beijing has extremely upscale malls, and strips of quaint and hipster hutong shops. There is an excitement in Beijing that I can sense every time I step out of my apartment. This city has so much to offer, and my 6-week experience here certainly does not qualify me to write an accurate description of it. However, I have made a few observations that I would like to share.
Let’s face it – Beijing can be tough. Aspects such as navigating the subway line alongside hundreds of others and braving the polluted skies can pose challenges for people living in this city. Despite these challenges, however, there are countless strikingly amazing aspects of this city that has made my stay here one I will never forget. Yes, I have checked all of the major sights off my list: exploring the Forbidden City, hiking up the Great Wall, tasting the street foods, and relaxing by the Summer Palace. All of these have been great experiences, but they are not the main reasons I have grown to love this city. It is the “little things” that I am most thankful for, and that I will miss the most when I travel back to the United States next week. Below are 5 “little things” I would like to thank Beijing for:
1. Thank you, Beijing, for the endless supply of ice cream popsicle freezers around every corner.
Especially during your hottest temperatures and after a long day of sightseeing, those popsicles have come to be the most refreshing snacks. I try a new flavor each time and have still only tasted a fraction of the options! The one pictured above is my personal favorite – and they are typically sold for only 3-4 RMB!
2. Thank you, Beijing, for the escalators.
Taking the subway would be so much more dreadful if we had to hike up flights and flights of stairs each time. Turning the corner, and seeing an escalator before me instantly puts me in a better mood.
3. Thank you, Beijing, for your well-kept parks.
For me, one of the toughest parts about being in a city is the constant rush and movement. Native to a small town in America, I am used to peaceful walks around the block, surrounded by trees and birds. Beijing has TONS of space dedicated to beautiful parks with trees and birds. I was happy to discover this. And these parks obtain a heightened sense of tranquility and community. Groups in one corner practice tai chi, while another group stretches across exercise equipment. Others are playing badminton or ping pong, and some are jumping rope to music. The harmony of the environment is indescribable and something that could never be replicated in the United States.
4. Thank you, Beijing, for xiaolongbao.
Wow. This Chinese delicacy has become my all-time favorite dish to eat, and I don’t know what I will do without it’s availability to me in a few weeks. I will miss those dumplings, without a doubt.
5. Thank you, Beijing, for the people.
As cheesy as it sounds, the people I have met during this 6-week trip are truly what have made Beijing so special to me. Whether it’s the group of 5 strangers at Tien’anmen Square gesturing and helping to direct me, despite my inability to understand Chinese. Or the baker shop lady who greets us with the brightest smile and sometimes sneaks us an extra cream puff. Or Tian Ming, who has become my neighborhood friend and helps me correctly pronounce key Chinese phrases. Or Patty, the English major who became an instant best friend shortly after meeting her. The people are the ones who have created an unforgettable experience for me here, making it difficult to leave.
I know that I have hardly scratched the surface of understanding this city during my time here. And this city can certainly never be summarized into 5 things, but these are just some of the little things in Beijing that have made it so special to me. So thank you, Beijing, for hosting some of the most amazing people I have met, for providing delicious foods, and for instilling an energy within me that I will never be able to escape.
Thank you, Beijing, and I hope to see you again soon!