As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at what happened and then look forward to the new year. For me, it was a bittersweet year as I decided to leave Beijing, but I also finally went to Europe to travel.
I actually started off the year by going back to Taiwan to get minor foot surgery, which went alright but meant I had to take it easy for the first few months. Even now, I have to be careful as I still get minor aches now and then, and I have not done any real hiking in over a year.
I then decided to end my time in Beijing, quit my job there, and leave. It was a relatively easy decision to make, but it had been months in the making. I felt a lot of disappointment, not just because of leaving but because I had slowly realized that my previous sentiments about the country had been wrong and foolish, and as a result, my attitude shifted 180 degrees. It’s something I cannot full explain because it’s like you have a belief in something for a long time but then, it’s exposed as fake and there’s an emptiness in its place. And you can’t even blame other people because you were the one misleading yourself.
It’s only now that I sometimes get a slight feeling of nostalgia for my time in Beijing, which is a different world from Taiwan, despite being only a three-hour flight away and the similar cultural characteristics and language. Of course, the ongoing recurrent bouts of bad smog that Beijing and a lot of Northern China have been getting this month have made me relieved I am not there.
With regards to traveling, I took a couple of decent weekend trips while I was still in Beijing, to see the Yunggang Grottoes in Datong and to visit Jinan, the capital of Shandong. I went to Myanmar and then Western Europe after returning to Taiwan.
Myanmar was a decent experience though it was tough visiting there during one of the hottest months of the year.
The “Eurotrip” was undoubtedly the highlight, mostly because I hadn’t expected to be so fascinated by all the places I went to. While I’ve always wanted to visit England, I’d also thought that Europe wasn’t so exotic or interesting (I mean I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the Colosseum so many times in movies, shows and photos) and was too old-world in a staid way. Well, I was very much wrong! I still think about Paris and Rome with fondness and I certainly hope I can return to the Old Continent in future.
It’d be foolish to just focus on one’s own issues and not be aware of things going on in the world. As much as I liked traveling to Europe, there are countless other less fortunate souls who also went to Europe but for much more desperate reasons. The refugee crisis is itself the result of continued instability and conflict in parts of the Middle East and Africa, especially Libya and Syria. There needs to be both help for the refugees and action taken to dampen the conflict in those parts. In this part of Asia, there is less of that but China’s growing arrogance and militarization in the South China Sea make this a possible area of conflict. Taiwan’s next presidential and legislative elections will happen in a few weeks and a big change is expected, with a more pro-Taiwan opposition party expected to win. Knowing China and the CCP, they will not take this quietly so who knows how much noise and sabre-rattling will happen.
Regardless, I am kind of glad 2016 is approaching very soon and I hope things will turn out to be better than this year.
Going to Europe let me see sights like the Eiffel Tower, above, and wander the streets of Rome, below.
Before my Europe trip, I went to Myanmar, a weird mix of Southeast Asia and Britain, a result of the country having been a British colony up till the mid-20th century.
I took two weekend trips earlier in the year in China, one to Datong to see the Yunggang Grottoes, below, and another to Jinan, the photo below the following photo.
On my last day in Beijing, I got one final bitter taste of China life when I was stuck inside my plane to Taipei for over two hours due to takeoff delays and heavy rain. The flight had already been delayed twice for two hours before boarding, so my flight was delayed by over four hours.