Have you ever traveled and woken up in unfamiliar surroundings, experiencing that millisecond-long feeling of panic when you realize you’re not at home?
That happened to me the first week I relocated to Beijing for my international job assignment. But instead of being on a business trip, the realization set in that I was here to stay for 2 years.
I was born in the USA, as American as the next guy. Here in Beijing, I was definitely a fish out of water. Mandarin isn’t even my family’s home dialect, as both of my parents were from Guangzhou and Hong Kong, where the locals speak Cantonese.
I arrived in Beijing, polishing the rusty Mandarin skills I’d acquired in college, with the task of building a new R&D team in an entirely new environment of Chinese culture and people. It was a daunting task, but like anything else, once you really dig into the work, things generally turn out all right.
My beautiful wife and life-long friend, Judy accompanied me of course, and thank goodness for that. Judy grew up in Shanghai and immigrated to the US when she was 16, so this was a bit of a homecoming for her. It’s especially convenient considering she’s a native speaker and retained the ability to read and write Chinese (the helpfulness of this fact cannot be overstated!).
My two daughters were still in college, probably feeling a little abandoned but doing quite well. (At least I know that preparing meals for themselves won’t be an issue). For me, the illiterate Chinese-American, the Mandarin lessons would begin.
I reassured myself in those first days that this was a good move for my career. It was a unique opportunity to get back to my Chinese roots. And concerning the topics of Food and Travel, Beijing is the perfect launching pad for travel and culinary exploration in Asia–from Chinese regional dishes that we’ve never tried before to international cuisines. Let’s just say we’ve been eating a lot lately.