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Moving to Beijing – the nuts and bolts of the matter

December 19, 2011

Admit it – at some point in the dark of the night you’ve thought “You know, the REAL way to get my kids to learn Mandarin would just be to move to China. What am I doing here in (San Francisco/Seattle/St. Paul/Denver/your-city-name-here) anyway? China’s the wave of the future. We should just MOVE.”

Well, San Francisco mom Kayla is doing what most of us only fantasize about – she’s picking up and moving to Beijing. In January. And she’s writing a blow-by-blow account of just how much work it takes on her blog (for which those of us who haven’t quite worked out how we’d do it are most grateful.)

Her first post is below. You can read the latest here. Start at the beginning and read until now. You might rethink your pie-in-the-sky plans to decamp to Beijing. Or you might buy a ticket tomorrow….

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MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2011

The Big Decision

Last week I made the ultimate decision to quit my job and move me and my kid to Beijing.  I have wanted to do it at least since spending the better part of last summer traveling around China.  My daughter, LiLi, is in a public Mandarin Immersion school in San Francisco, CA.  Her Mandarin is excellent and her accent sounds like a native, or so I’m told.  But, I’m also told that learning Mandarin in the US, even at a good school, means that at the beginning of third grade she knows a few hundred characters; if we were in China by now she’d know around 2000.

We have some friends who moved to Central and South America so their kids could learn Spanish and I’ve long thought that that was a great idea.  I’ve recently reconnected with them, read their blog, and been inspired by their courage and sense of adventure.  I also met a family this past summer in Beijing who decided then that they’d move with their family of three young kids.  The dad, from Ghana, said that Mandarin is going to be so important to our kids’ generation and that the place to learn it was right there, in Beijing.  A couple of weeks later they went home, packed up their house, and moved.  Since then I’ve hooked up with a whole cohort of expat families who have done the same thing for the same reason.

Since I have been telling friends and other school families about our plans, I’ve been asked how it feels.  It feels:  exciting; overwhelming; exhilarating.  Mostly, it feels “right.”  The last few days I’ve been reflecting on that, and the various considerations and pieces of the life-altering-changes puzzle.  A big piece is  Mandarin Immersion.  What better place to immerse my daughter in the language?  But there are other pieces too.  There are professional considerations, mid-life crisis ones (move to Beijing or buy myself a black Jaguar E-type?), getting unstuck.  Heritage is another big piece.  My father was born in China and left during a Japanese invasion in the 1930s when many Mainlanders fled.  He recalled running through a field as bombs were dropping.  He was the youngest of four kids and remembered my grandmother pulling on his arm to run faster.  He was about my daughter’s age when they left China for Malaysia, later coming to the US for college and medical school. So there’s a huge piece that feels a bit like I’m going home.  It’s odd because though I’ve traveled in China a handful of times, I’ve never lived in China.  Perhaps there is something to the fact that some hotels and the visa ap refer to US born Chinese (even half-Chinese/half-Caucasians like me) as “Overseas Chinese.”

We will move to Beijing in late January 2012.  I intend to write here some of our experiences and welcome you to join us on this adventure.  : )

-Kayla

2 Comments leave one →
  1. shelli permalink
    December 20, 2011 9:07 am

    I would love to follow your journey! Is there a direct link?
    We are moving from MI to San Francisco to give our 3 adopted children from China a more Chinese immersion. My husband’s new job is downtown SF (SOMA) . He will move to SF in Jan. I hope to bring everyone by spring. Any info you have on renting, schools, chinese school etc. would be greatly appreciated.

    thanks-
    Shelli

  2. elizabethweise permalink*
    December 20, 2011 9:35 am

    Click on the word “here” in bold in the post, it takes you to her blog. I also put it in our Links list on the right hand side of this blog, as Moving to Beijing.
    Contact Starr King or Jose Ortega about Mandarin immersion in San Francisco, or email the MIPC and we can set you up.

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