8.25.2017

It’s Just That Simple 简朴的生活

There's a whole lot of money that you gave me
I'd gladly empty my pockets right now
You'd parlay all that by triple
It's just that simple
-Wilco




Five years ago, we packed our bags and said, "Adios California” and set up house in crazy, smelly, spilling-over-with-people Beijing. We said, “We’ll give it a year!” The year came and went, and we said, “We’ll give it a year!” Now five years have come and gone. And guess what? We are still saying, “We’ll give it year!”

So you may want to know, why in the world, do we stay? It's not because life in Beijing is a breeze. There are plenty of things about living here that are plain annoying. For instance, listening to my neighbor hacking up loogies in the hallway makes my stomach churn. Other annoying things include strangers touching Dumpling without warning, the inexplicable amount of dust and dirt everywhere, air-dried-stiff-as-a-board laundry (no clothes dryers here!), extreme weather (hot and muggy, freezing and dry, sandstorms), and bad air days.

Life here, though, has a major advantage. Life is simple.

What is so simple:
  1. Stress-free work: birdMAN works Monday through Friday 8 am - 4 pm at an international high school. With the exception of a class trip and a few nights overseeing study hall, he reliably comes home by 4:30 pm. No overtime and he enjoys extended winter and summer holidays. An almost stress-free job and me having no job keeps our stress levels to practically zero. While our household income may be much lower compared to a typical US household, it is enough that we can keep our fridge stocked with cheese and butter, regularly drink beer and eat cheeseburgers at Great Leap, order pizza whenever we don’t feel like cooking, and set aside some money for a rainy day.
  2. Transportation: birdMAN rides his bike to work everyday. Prior to Dumpling, we rode our bikes everywhere, but now I am a pedestrian. Instead of two cars (like what would be required to live in California) to maintain and wash and the required insurance, we pay less than a dollar per subway ride and probably spend less than $20 per year on bike maintenance.
  3. House: We a rent a one bedroom 80 sq m (860 sq ft) apartment for 6,000 RMB (900 USD) per month. Water and electricity are cheap. We have no garage and very limited storage space. Since I disdain clutter, we simply don’t buy a lot of stuff. Forget fancy kitchen gadgets like mixers or food processors. There is no more room in the cupboard. 
  4. Shopping: As far as clothes and shoes go, there’s not much I want to buy in China. The malls are full of expensive and ugly polyester clothes. Taobao and Jingdong have made internet shopping commonplace, but I find navigating the Chinese and gambling on the questionable quality of stuff tiresome. We just get our shopping fixes done in the US where we a.) understand item descriptions and reviews, b.) can return anything that’s unsatisfactory and/or ill-fitting, and c.) buy expensive stuff on sale. I save a lot of time here by simply not shopping.
Ok, you might say, That’s nice and dandy, but really, Why? Isn’t California so nice? Don’t you want your Dumpling to grow up with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins? And don’t even get me started on the Beijing smog!

Yes, that does sound nice. But we do have compelling reasons to stay. We have made a home here. We have friends here. We have students. Simply put, we aren’t quite ready to give up what we have worked so hard for the last five years just yet. It's just that simple.

So for now, we will say, “We’ll give it another year!”

Chinese Word of the Blog: 简朴的生活 Jiǎnpú de shēnghuó
English Translation: simple life

P.S. We would also like to thank Great Leap Brewing for making Beijing life a bit sweeter. See us at GLB through the years.

Year 1: September 2012. The weather is fine!
Year 1: February 2013. It's freezing.
Year 1: April 2013. An exceptionally long winter.
Year 2. May 2014. It's a friendly affair.
Year 2. June 2014. Cheeseburgers + Beer = Happy
Year 3. August 2014. Another hot summer.
Year 3. September 2014
Year 3. October 2014
Year 3. November 2014. It's Movember!
Year 3. June 2015. Xialian joins in on the fun.
Year 4. March 2016. One of my last beers before getting pregnant.
Year 5. January 2017. Dumpling is the same size as a pint of beer.

Year 5. February 2017. Just the three of us.
Year 5. March 2017. We make it into a family affair.
Starting Year 6 off with a bang! August 2017