I am leaving Beijing.
After ten gloriously exhausting years in China, I, my wife and my two boys are saying goodbye to China — and hello again to the USA, for new adventures in a rural town in the Seattle area, surrounded by blueberry farms, pine forests, wrap-around water views, white-capped mountain ranges — and crystal clear skies, when it’s not raining.
There. I’ve finally announced it. What a relief. I’ve been staring at my blog’s word processor for weeks, trying to write an all-encompassing opus, an uber-elegy to my roller-coaster years here, trying to capture what it all has meant to me. But I threw away all of my early edits. Sometimes they were too preachy, too treacly, or worst of all: boring. So I decided to lower my ambitions here and just put out something — anything, really — mostly because my time here is quickly running out, and I wanted to give my Beijing patients a few weeks to say goodbye to me here in the clinic, as my last day is now less than a month away (the end of July).
So here’s my main point: I wanted to give thanks and express gratitude to all of my Beijing patients over the past ten years. If I don’t see you again this month, it’s been a true pleasure and an honor taking care of you and your families, hearing your stories and sharing my own. I hope I’ve made your lives here in China a bit more healthy and rewarding. And to the millions of readers of this blog and my other publications, I’ve been thrilled and deeply satisfied to share my advice with so many people, especially people across China with my Chinese translations and book.
I suppose I could, or should, go into details about why we’re leaving China after ten years. But in general, it’s a very personal decision we’ve made and we’re very happy about the change — but also appreciative of the many opportunities and benefits we’ve had here. Of course if I wanted, I could regurgitate a boilerplate expat-leaving-China catharsis, but I think that genre is a bit tiresome. And besides, I’ve made it very clear in my 600+ blog articles what I’ve struggled with here, and also how I’ve thrived despite the obvious handicaps of living in Beijing. The final tally, for me, is very much a net positive.
So as I wrap things up here, and clearly end this blog in its current form, I am filled with many emotions, most of them positive, which is where I prefer to stay. I’d like share a quote, from a speech I gave two years ago at the opening ceremony for the International School of Beijing’s pollution-free sports dome:
…On a final note, please don’t ever forget just how lucky you are, to be able to go to a school like ISB. What if you were born in China during the Cultural Revolution, with no schools anywhere for 10 years? Your career dreams never would have come true. Or what if you were born just across the street here in the village, and your public school still lets you play outside on bad pollution days?
All of us — adults and parents and students — every day should be thankful for our health, for our families, and that we have the chance to thrive and make our dreams come true.
I bid everyone farewell, finally ending with a few parting words of wisdom from those wise sages Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear:
Movin’ right along in search of good times and good news,
With good friends you can’t lose,
This could become a habit!
Opportunity knocks once let’s reach out and grab it (yeah!),
Together we’ll nab it,
We’ll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it!
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