Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

While I was in Beijing

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I have a friend who is incredibly organised, has an adorable dog, likes baking, and possesses a property portfolio. We met while working for the same creative agency in Beijing; she had a fulltime job as an account director, and I was a copywriter on a temporary contract.

We kept a low-level friendship on social media, although we became friendlier as we commented on each other’s posts. She is several years older than me and is happily settled with husband and career.

While I was in Beijing, for work, in early July, we arranged a swimming meet-up. I am a keen swimmer and I had seen that she was learning to swim front crawl. She invited me to join her at her gym, on a Sunday morning, during her swim lesson. I looked forward to this more than I could say.

After the swim, and while my friend got changed, I snapped this photo of the sunlight filtering through the gym from the large windows.

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Afterward, we sat outside and I ate the brownies she’d brought for me, my fingers sticky with chocolate icing. It is thanks to the generosity of my friends and those whom I consider patrons that I can experience these kind of lucky moments.

*

My friend and host in Beijing has this fluffy white cat. He’s called 钱多多 — pronounced “chian door-door” — which translates as Money more more. My friend rents a two-story studio apartment near an old reservoir that is dated to imperial Beijing. She has a rent-stabilised apartment owing to a landlord who agreed to the condition as long as my friend renovated the apartment. My friend spent a lot of her own money and time renovating this apartment which does not belong to her.

I remember one night I went to bed and slept until around 3am. I then crept downstairs to use the living room table and turned on my laptop. I had to re-write an article and I was on deadline. Fortunately, my editor was based in east coast America so she was 12 hours behind. But I had to file the article before the end of day.

Owing to a power cut, I worked in the dark, lit only by the light of my laptop screen. Luckily, my laptop still had sufficient battery and my smartphone provided Internet as a WiFi hotspot. It was a tough re-write but in the darkness, in the mid-night, focus seemed to be on my side. I worked until 6am when the first pale glimmer of pre-dawn provided the clues of morning. I got the re-write done.

The rest of the time I played with my friend’s cat.

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*

I had filed my article, and finished the work that had led me to Beijing, and my friend and I walked in the rainy evening to a movie theatre — to watch Spiderman: Far from Home (thumbs up). On the way, we managed to catch the sunset over the waters of the imperial-era reservoir.

I took this photo just seconds after the light had faded from its brightest gold

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Some of the nicest things in life are the odd graceful moments that strike you by surprise: the unexpected…

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

August 5, 2019 at 11:43 am

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