Experiencing China

'Experiencing China' is about ordinary life in China and the wealing and dealing of a Dutchman in the Middle Kingdom. Marc works for DuoArts Consultancy and the Empowerment Foundation, travelling between the Netherlands and China.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

China 1999 - Part One

Hello everybody,

We're going back into history, to be specific in February 1999. At that time I was a student about to go to China for the first time in order to do my first individual research in a state-owned enterprise annex joint venture. Because of the stress of the past two months or so, I was travelling by train, packed and stuffed with suitcases, feeling to live in a surrealistic world, not yet realizing fully that I was going to live and work in China for a little bit more than 3 months. (It's difficult to put all these feelings into one line). Together with Eveline, my girlfriend, now beloved wife, we travelled to Schiphol Airport Amsterdam. I can remember I was trying hard to show some confidence to her in this whole project I was about to start, actually feeling quite uncertain. At the same time I felt very proud. I was about to do something I dreamt of my whole life. In short: I was torn by mixed feelings, feeling tired and the journey didn't even start yet.

After a nine hour journey in a plane stuffed with Chinese and the presents they bought for their families and friends - it was just before the Springfestival or Chinese New Year - I landed on the former airport of Beijing. I am happy that I was able to land there once, because unlike the new airport, it reminded me of the old China. The airport probably didn't change a lot over time and could be more or less the same when Mao reigned the country during the Cultural Revolution (about 1967 - 1976). We were 'welcomed' by a soldier standing solemnly at the end of the stairs that took us from the plane to the ancient yellow Chinese soil. I would have liked to kiss this ground, but didn't put into practice because I was afraid that this would be considered as a contra revolutionary act. Oh yes, I really was 'green' at that time....

For I never had been to China, which probably is written all over your face, I took a certain cab driven by a man and his Chinese and accompanied by English speaking wife or girlfriend. The woman went on talking as we drove mile after mile, minute after minute after hour after hour. During those very first hours in China I have seen parts of Beijing (see map China) I now probably never would find again. Moreover, it also has been the most expensive ride I had. Finally we arrived at the hotel. I can remember I was counting the money I had taken with me for the whole three month stay, worrying how on earth I was able to financially survive in China when I kept spending money the way I did this first hour.

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