In 1994, I went to live in China with husband and one-year-old. It was a huge leap of faith. China was only just opening up to foreigners again after being closed off to the world post-Tiananmen, and there was very little information about what we would find once we got there. What we did find was a crazy roller-coaster ride of daily adventures and intense experiences. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but some days there were so miserable I just wanted to leave on the next plane.
I certainly didn’t ever set out to write a book about the whole thing. I was writing articles at the time, both for magazines in North America and for the Beijing Municipal Government’s English-language publication, but nothing with a book in mind. As the material built up, however, and the stories became wilder, I realized that I needed to record it all for our family. We would likely start to forget some of the craziness as the years passed, and the children were so young that they wouldn’t remember much of it in the first place.
Through the process, I gained a sincere appreciation for anyone who has ever written and published a book. Make no mistake, this is a labour of love. The fun bit was the initial creative writing process. The brutal bit was taking what I had written and editing, editing, editing. It doesn’t matter that you poured hours of literary sweat into a passage; if it’s boring you have to rip it out. I got there in the end, and years later am very glad that we have all these memories safely stored for the future.
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