By the time I arrived in Beijing for the first time, I had already decided that I should stop writing too much and too quickly about places I visited. I had traveled to several destinations as part of a long term work project. A large part and central part of my assignment was to connect cultures, to build bridges between them.
Writing, (or at least my kind of writing,) appeared to be not very helpful for that. Had I written about Beijing on one of my first visits, the descriptions would have only illustrated how ignorant I was about the city, and how much I had failed to penetrate any of the layers of mystery that have protected the place and might keep protecting it for generations to come. Beijing has an incredible depth and complexity when it comes to its secrets. It is a place that was created to be a vault for a certain kind of thinking and emotion and information. And nothing can destroy a perticular complexity that seems to be so unique to the discreet and brilliantly incredible place that is Beijing.
I love returning to the Northern Capital. I know that I will never be able to be completely welcomed in its system, but on the other hand it is a place that feels oddly like a deep emotionally personal center for me.
I obviously have only visited. I will likely forever remain a visitor; and a very privileged one at that. I have never actually lived in the city over extended periods of time. But still, the way some communication happens, the way the light hits the streets, the way the air is heavy with certain kinds of smells. All of those aspects create something that feels so familiar. Not just to the grown up me, to some earlier version of me that still lives inside of me. It is rather fascinating and inspiring.
What might also add to the effect of emotional connectedness is that I can barely read simplified Chinese. So in Beijing I am able to experience, as an adult, a certain level of innocence only available to the preliterate child. I can not speak the language either, or barely, and so I am either dependent on my ability to just be a trusting human being and to completely rely on the kindness of friends and strangers.
And I somehow happen to have some of the kindest friends in Beijing, and I have encountered some incredibly kind strangers too. The way the universe looks from the Northern Capital somehow appears to be in harmony with a certain path I often attempt to take.
Flight LH721, Somewhere over Russia, April 2014