On this blog, I have often talked about the years I spent in Kenya, Iran and Iraq back when I was a child; people who have known me for years have repeatedly asked me why I never posted about the 5 years I spent in China. As the Beijing Olympics are about to start, I thought I'd share some recollections of my time in that country and try to explain why it took me so long to write about it.
My family moved to Beijing in January 1987, when I was 9, and a few months later we traveled to Inner Mongolia with a friend of my mum's and her two boys. The beauty of Mongolian landscapes stunned us - my mum and I are standing in front of an immense sand dune on the top picture and lest you ask, yes, I was very tall and leggy for my age. As horses are an intrinsic part of the Mongolian lifestyle, we also hopped on some horses (and camels); my sister and Etienne, a friend, are riding one on the lower pic.
In most villages we went through, no one had ever seen foreigners, so people would crowd around our van and stare, gently poking fun of our big noses and light hair. Clean water was virtually impossible to find and back in those days, neither bottled water nor Coca-Cola were available; indeed, the only canned beverage that could be found was beer, so while the grownups sipped on their beer, we kids would remain hydrated thanks to the sweetest watermelons ever.
It was an amazing trip.
I am still friends with our travel companions and as of Friday I will actually be visiting Etienne, now in his 20's, as well as his parents, at their family castle in South-Western France... So stay tuned for more memories of a Chinese childhood and pictures of my week at Etienne's.