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Viewpoint: Sophomore recounts summer in Beijing

[media-credit name=”courtesy Nicky Kaufman” align=”alignright” width=”223″] Sophomore Nicky Kaufman works on a farm in Beijing, China, where he lived from age five to age eight.
by Nicky Kaufman

Seven years ago I left Beijing, China after my father served a three year posting there for his job. From age five to age eight, I called the city my home. Ever since I left, I longed to go back.

Of course with two kids in college and me entering high school, my parents were increasingly more reluctant to return to Beijing. After several years and the discovery of an abundance of frequent flier miles, my wish was finally granted.

Before leaving, I ask old friends from Chino, who owned a restaurant and an organic farm, if they were willing to host me. They agreed wholeheartedly, under the condition that I would assist them in the farm and the restaurant. What ensued was an experience like no other and a Beijing very different from the one I left at age eight.

Due to the Olympics, Beijing has undergone intense urbanization, leaving the city sprouting with skyscrapers and malls. Driving from the airport, I was shocked to see massive convention centers instead of the cornfields I remembered, subway platforms instead of markets I remembered and a loud city in the place of the countryside I remembered.
My experiences in this “new” Beijing were often strange and always memorable.

There were early mornings, struggling to understand breakfast orders in Chinese while flipping through a Chinese-English dictionary as amused patrons looked on.

There were long afternoons with my back propped up against the side of a pig-sty reading The Hunger Games, while, inches from my face, a 500-pound pig named Rupert grunted loudly.

I received college advice from students wishing to take pictures with me, saw my old house abandoned and heard of all the old friends who had long since left Beijing.

It was all part of the Beijing experience, an experience like no other.

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