Saturday, April 10, 2010

List of the Month - Why am I in China? (The short answers)

I've now had two long posts (here and here) on how I came to be in China.

I thought perhaps I should follow up with some rather more easily digestible, soundbitey explanations.

Why did you come to China?

Like most foreigners here, I'm on the run - from bad debts, bad love affairs, bad career choices, a bad life. It's that old French Foreign Legion thing: I came here to forget...

Someone offered me a job here. After long spells of ill health, unemployment, and self-indulgent globetrotting, my CV is a thing of rags and patches and I am pretty much unemployable in the UK.

I don't like the UK all that much - I have a very mixed background, and have never really thought very strongly of the UK or England as 'home'.

I especially don't like London - hellishly expensive, and I have suffered some very bad times there. And I really dislike Londoners: narrow-minded, foul-mouthed, bigoted people, most of them.

I liked the idea of 'losing myself' for a while in such an alien culture, in a place where there wouldn't be many 'Westerners', many English-speakers (I was, frankly, rather disappointed to discover that there was such a large expat population in Beijing these days).

It's beguilingly cheap to live here, even in a major city; it's become troublingly less so in the last few years, but I can still lead a lifestyle here that would be unimaginable almost anywhere else in the world.

Work opportunities here are, though not very well-paid most of the time, fairly plentiful and varied.

Despite all the many things I complain about - the murderously incompetent driving, the uncomfortably extreme weather, the awful pollution, the corrupt government - I do, on the whole, love living in Beijing (and I knew that I would, even before I came here).

I was drawn to the fact that Beijing was to host the Olympics; not interested in the Games themselves, but intrigued to see how the city would prepare for the event.

China as a whole is in the midst of an historic transformation - industrializing, modernizing, 'Westernizing' at a giddying rate. It's fascinating to witness this happening: I don't think there's any more interesting place to be in the world right now. (Of course, to live in "interesting times" is not wholly a good thing...)

Or, most simply, I might just say...

My mission here is secret. I am not able to discuss the details.

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