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How I lived before China

By Maddy K | | Updated: 2017-11-03 10:34

How I lived before China

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Since I was first in China in 2012, my life, and China itself, have developed and changed a lot. My first China interaction was in 2012, when I came here with a friend to backpack. We traveled from Beijing to Shanghai to Xi’an to Anhui to Sichuan to Guilin and to Hong Kong, all in 5 weeks. We had a fantastic time meeting local people, exploring beautiful places and eating delicious food. After this experience traveling across China and eating local food, I really wondered ‘How did I live without eating dumplings and eggplant on a weekly basis? Well I guess I did somehow, for 22 years!

Then, with the taste of China in my mouth I returned in 2014 for the year as a Chinese language exchange student in Beijing. This is when I fell in love with Beijing. Despite the pollution, people everywhere and noise, what I saw in Beijing was a city constantly on the move and developing at a pace so unknown to me, who comes from a small, sleepy Australian city.

Upon my arrival in Beijing in that year of 2014, a Chinese lady also on my plane said ‘Do you have WeChat’? ‘What’s WeChat’, I replied? Her facial expression said it all ... when I think back to it now I also have the same expression as her, of shock. During that year I really noticed how WeChat wallet took off, and by the time I returned back to China in mid-2015 after six months away, everyone who could have it had WeChat wallet. It's not more common to see people bringing their actual wallets anywhere, just bring your phone with you – aka WeChat. I love WeChat wallet, and being so used to its convenience, now I often wonder how I lived before without the glorious convenience and fun of WeChat. Well I guess I did somehow, for 23 years!

As my Chinese improved during my studies I became more independent and more aware of the possibilities of wai mai, or food home delivery. I suddenly noticed the thousands of wai mai drivers zooming across the roads on their scooters. On deep, dark Beijing winter days and rainy days, wai mai is like the holy grail and as I chowed down on my take away dumplings I would think and laugh to myself, ‘How did I live before without being able to wai mai? Well I guess I did somehow, for 23 years!

Jumping to mid-2015 and I was back in China again for my third stint, this time for my master's degree. That's when I came across my first Mobike: ‘Oh, that’s a unique bike, I wonder why it has been left on the street all by itself, surely it will get stolen soon, ’ I thought as I passed it by on my own black bike. But one week passed and I saw it still there – ‘Wow it hasn’t been stolen yet, ’ I remarked. Then the one Mobike sighting turned into two and three, and soon thousands and then seemingly overnight the streets of Beijing were flooded with orange and yellow wheels and again I pondered on how I ever lived without my shared bike account. Well I guess I did somehow, for 25 years!

What living in Beijing for the past three years has given me more than anything else is the appreciation for what humans can do and how fast cities and nations are made. From the cranes swinging back and forth in Guomao and in the suburbs, delivery vans rushing to and fro to send their goods, to people flooding the subways to make it to work on time, this is all so Beijing – it is movement, it is noise, it is stress, but it is progress and it's incredible to witness.

China today is a country still steeped in ancient knowledge and custom, yet one that is also bursting with new ideas and innovation. Although some things, like the delicious dumplings and eggplants across China, seem they will always stay the same, something else is constantly changing at a pace beyond comprehension. I’m sure as I continue my life here in Beijing I will be swept up in the next new convenience of life that China’s rapid and innovative development is bringing out, and I will soon again say to myself, ‘How did I live without (insert future convenience) for 26 years?!’.

Maddy comes from Australia and first came to live in Beijing as an exchange student in 2014. After enjoying it so much she stayed on to pursue her master's and now has graduated and is working in Beijing.

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