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This Is Beijing For You!

By Kimeng Hilton Ndukong (People's Daily Online)    13:12, December 06, 2017

Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, journalist from Cameroon, poses with a set of Chinese twins during a visit to the Summer Palace in Beijing. Photo by Getachew Yalew

The flight was long and expectedly tiring. I slept off for most of the time as we flew by the renowned Ethiopian Airlines from Yaounde, the capital of my country, Cameroon, to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. And then from Addis Ababa on a transfer flight to Beijing, the Chinese capital. In all, taking about 10 hours!

We landed at the Beijing Capital Airport – I guess – at about 5.30 pm on a late February evening in 2017. The usual busy nature of the airport could allow us get space to alight until an hour after. It was another half later that we the passengers finally gathered around the conveyor belt to collect our luggage.

Outside the entrance to the arrival hall, my hosts from the China-Africa Press Centre, CAPC – with identification placards – were waiting for me. Alongside colleagues from different African countries who arrived on the same flight, we all scampered into the waiting bus, trying to escape the Beijing winter cold. Coming in from the tropical Yaounde weather where average temperatures are in their 20s, I must say it was quite an experience to encounter winter for the first time.

Upon arrival at the Diplomatic Residential Compound, DRC Jianguomenwai at about 10 pm that night, DRC management staff and security guards clutching bouquets of flowers were on hand to welcome us. In cold dripping snowflakes as we struggled to smile back at them. Thereafter, I was led to my flat in one of the storey buildings in the sprawling compound. But jet lag could not permit any comfortable rest this first night in Beijing.

Ever since, life in the Chinese capital became somewhat a roller coaster affair. Though I quickly adapted to the new environment and I was able to do my own shopping unlike in the first two weeks when we were accompanied by interns from the China-Africa Press Centre. Seven out of the 10 months spent in Beijing passed off without much notice. Then, the remaining three months appeared to mark time as I eagerly looked forward to returning home to join my family.

As the capital of the world’s largest nation in terms of population – almost 1.4 billion people – Beijing is no little city. Its population of 23 million is equal to that of Cameroon. In terms of entertainment, I did enjoy myself. Be they the near peerless performance by the charming China military ensemble, Laoshi Teahouse theatre acts, different Chinese opera and kungfu performances, musical concerts, football and tennis games, etc.

The famous Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Great Wall of China, local cuisine practicum classes, and above all, Chinese language and art lessons, offered me the opportunity to know more about China’s culture. Just like Beijing landmarks such as the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum and Tian’anmen Square.

Perhaps, the story would have been much different were it not for the welcoming attitude of Beijing residents. Always ready to assist even when they could not understand English or my English accent. Moreover, thieves do not appear to exist in Beijing. Throughout my stay, I mingled freely in public with people without fear that I will be pick pocketed or my mobile phone will be snatched.

The experiences of two African colleagues tell it all. They misplaced their wallets containing money on different days. But the two purses were picked up by true Good Samaritans and returned to the Jianguomenwai Diplomatic Residential Compound! With all their contents intact! What better way is there to demonstrate the sense of honesty of Beijing residents?

In all, life in Beijing was so beautiful that if offered the opportunity in future to come back, I will readily accept. For, this is after all, Beijing, the famous Chinese capital!

*Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, Sub-Editor for World News with Cameroon Tribune bilingual daily newspaper in Cameroon, writes on his 10-month stay in the Chinese capital, Beijing. He is a 2017 fellow of the China-Africa Press Centre, CAPC. 

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