Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Posts Tagged ‘diary

11th January — in Ninfield

leave a comment »

I have been at home, living at my parent’s house. They live in a village called Ninfield, in southeast England. It’s about half an hour’s drive from Hastings, the seaside town where I grew up. Round here it’s green fields, country homes, and little churches.

It’s been raining a lot. Daffodils bloom outside due to the warmest December in Britain on record.

I’ve not had much to do. I do some editing for a PR firm. Wrote a couple of travel articles for an Aussie website which will pay well. Sent a couple of pitches out earlier this week.

But January is usually a quiet month for freelancers. Although if I was in China, I’d have quite a bit on my plate as there’s a lot going on right now.

There is not much to do in Ninfield. It’s a village so it’s a very small place. There are no cafes and just a few shops. There are two pubs and a post office. Mostly I’ve been at home, exercising a little on a camping mat I bought, and reading the internet and watching TV.

Occasionally I go out for a walk. It’s muddy and wet and the grass is very green. I’ve enjoyed the British weather and the countryside. I went walking one day and I was taking photos on my phone of the scenery. In front of me there was a field that sloped downward toward the horizon, with a farmstead at the bottom, and horses in the field.

One approached me after I had stood there for a while taking pictures. He probably was wondering what I was doing and wanted to take a look.

I am starting to get antsy cooped up at home. Wanderlust fills me. I am kinda glad I am not in Beijing right now. I know it well enough to know that Beijing in January is a dangerous place and I’ve always tended toward a bleak and depressed mood in the city at this time of year.

*

On Christmas eve, my old school friends and I will usually meet at a pub and have drinks. It’s a kind of tradition. We’ll also meet up at one of our friend’s houses for a catch-up and we’ll go play football. That’s also become a tradition.

We don’t see each other very often. Sometimes just once or twice a year.

One is in the army, having returned from Afghanistan. Another works for a medical company with wife and newborn son. Another works for a water company up north. Another is well traveled and often abroad.

*

Tomorrow I go to London. And the day after I go to a national newspaper’s office to meet editors with whom I’ve corresponded but have never met.

I’m also reading a book by a Norwegian. I’ve not read him before. I came upon a passage, in which the author writes about his experience having just moved to the north of Norway, to teach at a school, while he writes, at the age of 18. And I remembered a little how I felt at that age.

“All the books I liked were basically about the same topic…Books about young men who struggled to fit into society, who wanted more from life than routines, more from life than a family, in short, young men who hated middle-class values and sought freedom…Everything they wanted I wanted too”.

Advertisements

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

January 10, 2016 at 11:02 pm

November 4th — in Beijing

leave a comment »

I’m homeless.

But it’s self imposed. I moved out of my apartment and I’m currently crashing at a friend’s place. I don’t have my own accommodation in Beijing anymore.

On Friday I will be flying to Yunnan, a province in southern China. It’s a beautiful and diverse part of the country. I’ll be staying with a friend and then we’ll travel around the province a little. I am looking forward to it. I’m a big nature lover and Yunnan has plenty of it. It’s something that Beijing, being a huge urban agglomeration, lacks.

October was a much quieter month than September. Here are a couple of pieces I wrote recently. One is about China abandoning its one-child policy after 35 years — big news. The other piece is about craft beer and coffee in Beijing. The latter piece was something I enjoyed writing. It took me a night and a day to put it together, and its more descriptive style brought to mind the older form of foreign correspondence, when those living in foreign lands sent home vignettes and descriptions as well as news; trying to capture the zeitgeist of exotic locations in which the writer lived but who readers back home could only imagine.

I hope that perhaps I can do more such writing. Although capturing the zeitgeist is harder than it may initially appear.

November and December will probably be downtime for me, which makes up for a mediocre and somewhat depressing summer, a summer where I traveled nowhere and did not do many summery things.

But I took the long view and the wintry downtime is something I feel I need. I will be flying back home in December for Christmas, staying with my family in England. I bought a single ticket. Will I be coming back to Beijing? It’s likely, but the question of when will hang around for a while I think.

The summer wanes — Wednesday, 26th August, in Beijing

leave a comment »

I’ve been busy these past weeks. I finished up my teaching job. I was hired to teach journalism and writing to Chinese employees of a multinational company. Designing the course was a full-time consideration, and delivering it was a lesson in teaching effectiveness.

I enjoyed the challenge though. And the fee from the project will help me to travel the remainder of this year.

I’ve decided to abandon my rented accommodation in Beijing. I would have had to shell out for three months’ rent money at the end of September (a lot of rents are paid in this way here), meaning the money I earned from the teaching would have simply evaporated, all for the privilege of residing in Beijing for another three months.

Instead I will take that money and travel. I have destinations in mind. One option is to make my way around the country and check in with various friends. I am also hoping to go to Taiwan, a place I first visited in 2009 and which I enjoyed. I will continue freelancing as I move. And opportunities to do so are not unencouraging.

Another milestone occurred recently too (the first is the journalism teaching which I had not done before), and that is I got my first ever lead story for a national newspaper, their website showing a story I’d written up top.

Apologies for the crowing, but in a year that’s had some troubled times for me, I think I’ll take a celebratory moment. These kind of milestones are what journalists live for.

It’s still hot, but I can feel the summer’s wane. The days now are just slightly less sultry than before. Not that I can complain, the weather now is great: blue skies and sunny; as the government issued orders to close surrounding factories, all for a parade to come the beginning of September.

Money is still very tight, as I await a whole bunch of freelancing money to come in. Bottlenecks such as these are something a freelancer has to do their best to eliminate.

But all in all, it’s a fairly satisfying end to an otherwise mediocre summer. But I’m taking the long view.

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

August 26, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Is this goodbye Beijing?

leave a comment »

Beijing and its endless streets and expanse of concrete desert, where it can take a lot of effort to arrange social affairs.

It’s coming up to three years since I arrived in Beijing — three years in which I’ve made friends and lost friends, through the simple drift of life.

In this time I’ve been broke numerous times, have had to scrape and meander. I’ve had starry nights and schemes come to fruition, and moments seldom preconceived.

But what am I doing now? Am I moving forward — is misery just going through the motions?

You might not understand the dilemma and that is fine. I shall put it plainly.

I could never have realized just how hard it is to succeed as a writer.

I could never have imagined what a crossroads sometimes life can be.

I do not want to work to earn money so I can pay the rent, so I can buy more things I do not need.

My instinct tells me I should move out of Beijing and head to some other places in China and stay with friends. Read, write, sleep. Convalesce.

Try to write more — that’s more important than anything. And yet why torture myself? I could do a job that’s enjoyable and worthwhile, and write on the side.

Many writers have had multiple lives. I feel like I should have those lives, because in the end it will make me better and more varied.

There’s no one telling you what your next move should be. There’s no path to follow or predetermined step. Always thus.

Money is and will always be an issue. When you’re younger you think –you’re sure of it in fact– that at some stage you will be wealthy and have enough money to do the things you want to do. But at some stage, it becomes clear that those riches might not become reality.

But that’s fine?

I should go somewhere awhile and figure things out.

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

July 22, 2015 at 10:51 am