Must-Do List for Families in Beijing

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Get in quick before you find yourself on the slow boat from China

I started this Beijing countdown fifteen weeks ago. I remember the day I first blogged about it and how utterly immediate those four months seemed to me back then – so immediate, my breath seemed permanently caught in my throat.

Now, I have just four days. I don’t think I’m breathing at all – just in case I miss something precious.

I suppose being so grief-stricken over leaving a city is perhaps a little odd. I feel like someone has carked it (Aussie slang for died). Really. I keep doing those really deep, woeful sighs and my eyes are on automatic tear-up; I have absolutely no control. And to make matters worse, today is the 19th anniversary of the day I lost my mother. So, it’s a heavy, heavy day.

This past week has been typically busy for a family leaving Beijing, but it’s also been a time for us to stop (very occasionally) and pause and appreciate this illustrious town. In keeping with my passion and adoration for the capital, I have kept my eyes wide open as I’ve scurried around town, seeking out the things I want to appreciate just one last time.

Most of us stay here a while, but that while evaporates so quickly, I can hear the lamenting “woulda, shoulda, coulda’s” all over town. So don’t lament. Plan early and get busy.

Thusly, here is my must-do list for families during their last year in Beijing…

  • Drag your carcasses across Hou Hai lake on a skate chair.

  • Crack your teeth on crab apple toffee sticks.

  • Meet Mr Magic.

  • Nibble the legs of a centipede at the Wangfujing Night Market.

  • Have ayi show the kids how to make jaozi and bing.

  • Eat from a jian bing cart on the street.

  • Suck the juice out of a pork jiaozi at Ding Tai Fung.

  • Trawl toys at Hongqiao Toy Market before it closes (soon!)

  • Stick your noses into flowers at Lai Tai and Liangma flower markets.

  • Visit a temple fair during Spring Festival.

  • Take gong fu lessons with your son or tai chi lessons with your daughter.

  • Visit an orphanage.

  • Support an orphanage.

  • Support community events whenever you possibly can.

  • Put stickers all over the house and learn a new Chinese word every day.

  • Buy a kids book on China from Wangfujing Street.

  • See an acrobatic show at Tiandi theatre or a big show at Poly Theatre.

  • Run around the altars at Ritan Park and then have tea in the garden.

  • Be part of a fund raiser.

  • Support other fund raisers.

  • Fish for plastic fish, enjoy a cranking ride or a bounce at any Beijing park.

  • Snuggle with a book on a wintry morning at the BookMark or the Bookworm.

  • Create smooshy clay pots on a wheel at Happy Land in Shunyi.

  • Support an NGO to help eradicate pan-handling.

  • Go to school fairs and Christmas Bazaars all over Beijing.

  • Ride a public bus or the subway.

  • Take photographs of the changing seasons and put them in four different albums.

  • Take a photo of each child in front of the same view at the same time each month and make a book.

  • Speak Mandarin wherever you can.

  • Strike up a friendship with some local kids and parents.

  • Ride bicycles through the white puff blossoms that fall at the end of summer.

  • Make a snowman with one jiao coins for eyes.

  • Set off fireworks on the street.

  • See the lotus blossoms busting out with pink in early August.

  • Join in with the tai chi, ballroom dancing, ribbon twirling or hackysack kicking. Just once.

  • Use the local Chinese gym equipment on the streets.

  • Fly Chinese kites on fresh spring breezes.

  • Have your back suctioned with hot cups.

  • Have a foot massage and include the kids.

  • Take your daughter for a manicure and pedicure.

  • Have a traditional qipao made, in silk, for all the girls in the family.

  • Have Chinese pyjamas made for the boys. Silk please.

  • Wander the hutong alleyways.

  • Take a boat ride to the Summer Palace.

  • Visit World Park and travel the world in one day.

  • Eat pancakes for breakfast at Grandma’s Kitchen.

  • Learn how to play mahjong.

  • Adopt a pet from the BHAEEC animal shelter.

  • Keep tickets, postcards, receipts and photos and stick them into a fat family scrapbook.

  • Eat noodles longer than your children are tall at the Noodle Bar.

  • Watch a Chinese kids film.

  • Eat locally and buy local food. Try organic.

  • Scoff mooncakes and make sure you read about their history.

  • Breathe in every moment and treasure it while you can.

    Of course, this is but a teensy weensy selection of Must Do things. The moment I post it, I’ll think of more.

    So, does anyone have their own must-do additions?

    First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.
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