Beijing: Week 11 and Farewell

All good things come to an end, like this cyclist's ride, which ended a moment after when he fell off his bike drunkenly...
My final week was, by all accounts, lovely. I had committed to leaving China and, as such, dedicated my final days to enjoying Beijing as much as possible.

On Monday I was supposed to work at an event but was told I wasn't needed at the last minute, so I took some time to visit the Lama Temple, which had been on my list for weeks. It was an incense-filled visit to, what I think, is the city's prettiest temple with all of its Tibetan influence and its 85-foot tall statue of Maitreya, successor to the Buddha. The Portuguese president was in town for the event I was meant to cover and joined me (well, not really) at the temple for a visit. Check and check.

Visiting the Lama Temple was a great last trip before peacing out of Beijing...

I walked home through some hutongs, stopping for a lunch of dumplings and a beer, because why not? They were as satisfying as they were cheap, and I thought that this might be something I'll miss, until I remembered there is no shortage of dumplings elsewhere in the world. Still, it was another check on my to-do list.

The rest of the week continued as normal, with work shifts failing to inspire and my dedication to well-written propaganda waning (more on that later). Instead, I enjoyed bantering with my colleagues, gorging myself on steamed buns from the grocery store, and packing my bags slowly but surely.

One last plate of dumplings...

A few friends who knew I was leaving took me out for one last dinner, Peking duck, of course, and we sipped the local baijiu liquor until late one evening. I returned home tipsy but happy, having felt like I conquered China in the most metaphorical of ways.

By Friday, it was my last day at work, and I slipped out of the office with a few final good-byes that no one really knew were final. I wasn't proud to leave my lovely coworkers, but I knew no one would be surprised by my eventual absence.


Saturday, I strolled though Sanlitun one last time before meeting my two friends for a last evening together, including a comedy show and a final wander through the hutongs. I made it home late, but happy, confident that I had done as much as possible in Beijing in my short time there. I could see the lights of the CCTV tower through my window and thought about how cool it was that I worked there, how rare an experience it was, how disappointing but exhilarating the whole thing had been.

Still, I was happy to leave.

I slept beneath my travel towel, having donated my duvet to a friend, and woke up energized and excited for the long flight that awaited me. It was Sunday and I was flying to the United States on a one-way ticket. I ordered my car, threw my bags in, and left without any hesitation.