The closest I’ve ever gotten to China was a short visit to Hong Kong a couple of years ago. But tomorrow I’m heading off to Beijing for two weeks.
Primarily, it’s to visit my friend Kate who has been living and working in Beijing on and off for the last few years. But it’s also a visit to a country which obviously holds a lot of fascination at the moment.
Thirty years ago, when I was a teenage short-wave radio fan, I used to listen to what was then called Radio Peking. In fact, I think I may still have some “reception cards” from then. I still a strong memory of listening to the station in the wake of the death of Mao. Yeah, I’m THAT old.
And obviously the last few years have shown an increasing importance for China, particularly for Australia. As we go into the next few decades, China will undoubtedly become an increasingly important part of the lives of many Australians.
Yet when my friend Patrick today called me to wish me all the best, and when he asked, “are you excited?”, I struggled for an answer. Yes, I am excited, but also a little confused. I really don’t know what to expect. Unlike other trips which I’ve researched heavily, I’m still quite unsure about what to expect with this trip.
Thankfully, I have a good friend there. And another colleague and friend who in fact wrote a book about China a couple of years ago, and who has given me advice, will also be there. So there’s a already a sense of familiarity.
But at the same time there’s also a sense of confusion. I can’t conceptualise a city of 17-22 million people. I can’t conceptualise not being able to even guess what some of the signs are saying. It’s a step into the unknown.
So I’ve packed, all my clothes are washed and iron, I’ve got all my documents together, all my cords and chargers are ready to go. And the house is cleaned.
I’ve never been this organised before an overseas trip!