Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Olympics - Remembering China (1)

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.

25 comments:

josephine said...

cannot wait to see more china photos!

Doriz Jeltzin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jo said...

oh wow!!! your stories are wonderful, you always amaze me, mary-laure!!

yasu said...

agree with jo, your childhood memories are always so interesting. hope you have a wonderful time in the south west of france with your friends!

nadia said...

Such a wonderful experience and childhood. I dream of mongolia and hope to make my way there soon!

Solange said...

really interesting you trips, do you feel france is your home, or not? since so many of my expat friends don't feel any country is their home country. It's easy to become a 'world citizen' :-)

have a great evening,

Solange

Mary-Laure said...

NADIA - oh do go to Mongolia, it's much worth visiting...

SOLANGE - my mum is American, my dad is French, my grandparents are from Uruguay and I spent my childhood all over the world so it's hard to feel I belong somewhere. I think I feel very American, not at all French, because the US is such an international country where it seems normal to have a mixed heritage...

A World in a PAN said...

Oh, how I enjoy reading your childhood memories of China.

Anonymous said...

oh how fascinating...cannot wait to hear more...:)
nancy

MISS GLITZY said...

I'll stay tuned even if I'm leaving on Saturday to my beautiful house in the countryside (Cantal), have a nice stay in your friend's castle.

Savvy Mode SG said...

i enjoyed the great wall but exhausting.....

breathing in the dreaming world said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog, I'm glad I found yours! I'm working with a girl from Taiwan, who has fascinating stories about China. So your post is even more intriguing. I'm also interested in your posts about Iran and Iraq. So now you are living in France? Wonderful~!

mansuetude said...

I have to say I love the posture of you in that photo--the hands, the athletic awareness of your stance. Your childhood sounds amazing and blessed; I hope you are ALREADY working on your memoirs. : ) Enjoy.

Kitt said...

Oh yes, more China pictures and stories, please.

I was teaching there for three years, beginning in 1988, so maybe we crossed paths! What did your family do during Tiananmen?

Hem och Lycka said...

Wow, what a great childhood, so much fun to see so much.

Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog!

Jill said...

can't wait to hear more chinese memories. i'm fascinated by china, but have never been. also looking forward to seeing photos of the french castle...

Mary-Laure said...

MISS GLITZY - I hope you'll bring back some pictures (and some cheese...) from Cantal.

BREATHING... - it's wonderful that you're interested in China and have a friend who can tell you stories about that country.
I'll try to entertain you too, with my own tales.

MANSUETUDE - I hadn't realized how full of energy and joy I looked on that picture, thanks for pointing it out!

KIT - how CRAZY, I was there from 1987 to 1990 (and then 1990-1 in Hong-Kong), maybe we did cross paths!!
Where were you teaching?
In 1989, I was still in Beijing of course. My mum took me to TianAnMen sq. every day so that I could witness this extraordinary, if ill-fated, historical event. It was unforgettable. I hope to post about this some time, even though the memories are painful.

Michelle and Winston the Westie said...

What a beautiful post! Wonderful that your parents were 'explorers'- you got the benefit and wonderful memories.

Kitt said...

In '89 I was up in Jilin Province, though I was in Beijing on vacation occasionally, and was job-hunting there during the demonstrations. I meant to stay the summer, but the massacre sent me home. I weny back a couple of months later and was at Beijing Information Technology Institute until '91. Directly north of the city, not too far from the university district. Where were you living?

Disa said...

i remember being 10 and being followed down the street by ladies in flowing abayas who would reach out to touch my hair (visible and blonde; def not "the done thing" in saudi arabia after puberty).

Mary-Laure said...

KIT - I was livingin in Beijing at the Lido, the Holiday Inn's residence on the airport road. Went to the French school in San Li Tun neighborhood.

DISA - I'm surprised you didn't get arrested!!!

tangobaby said...

Someday, dear Mary-Laure, I hope you will consider writing your memoirs. You have so much to share, and such an interesting and magical childhood to just be left to us lucky ones who read your blog.

I think your book would be phenomenal. But, in the meantime, I will look forward to all the memories you share with us.

Perhaps Benjy can offer some editorial services? I am sure he is very capable.

Laura Neulat said...

Souenirs ...

Taocito said...

Is it my imagination, or does little Etienne look slightly freaked out?

the traveler's soul said...

beautifull mum
beautifull daughter