This must be the nicest email I have ever received.
I dug back into my emails and I caught this. It seems that I skipped over it thinking it was one of your creative subject lines for an event! (you were always fantastic with those). I’m sorry that I didn’t realize that you were departing…and how soon it was.
I’m not entirely sure what to say 🙂 …..somewhat shocked comes to mind initially! Of all the people for whom I assumed the “leaving China” moment may never come; it would be…well, you. I’m sure I’m not the only person saying this! You’re an institution in the community and frankly an inspiration. You kept a weekly schedule going with vitality in Beijing for your events which I am certain most people would have dissipated on (and did…)…long prior. When I look back at my time in Beijing, one of the regrets that I have; next to not studying Chinese earlier (duh!), was not attending more meet-and-greet events around the community. As the business got busier, and things got crazier, taking off on Tuesday evenings to get out got increasingly complicated. Events like yours, together with the various chambers of commerce, etc…were quite vital to getting a sense of the pulse of the foreign community in Beijing. They were central to my understanding of what was taking place in 2009-2010; before I moved to China.
Of all the events that I attended of yours, I think that the one that probably made the biggest impression on me was the holiday/Christmas event of 2009 held in the lower level area of the Prosper Center (I think?) in the CBD. I recall that there was a gift giveaway and I remember walking in and seeing you announce winners. I attended with Yulia…the Russian girl from Vladivostok whom I believe is still working within Chinese medicine in Beijing. She and I had only recently met, and we headed to your event to meet more people and I am sure for each of us…to gather a sense of “home” during the holidays. I imagine that the reason that this one event stuck out in my mind was because, at that time, I was very much exploring if/when I might consider making Beijing a home for myself for the foreseeable future. There were a few other networking groups in town at the time (memories of which I’m sure you have many many many stories!) but yours always had an air of legitimacy, seriousness, and consideration for the people attending. That one specific evening left me feeling that this place of Beijing was one in which I could meet new people, find a way, and simply give Beijing a shot for work and life…into an unknown that I was unsure of at the time. Attending your events were always fun and fascinating.
Beyond the best wishes, and happy memories, I think that deeper down…I’m actually slightly sad to hear of you leaving. And I say that not to dispel, that for all of us as foreigners, there is bell tolling eventually for when we might inevitably “go home”. In my observational time in Beijing, there are few newcomers who actually believed that they would call Beijing home for an extended period of time. Certainly not past five years for most, and that ten year achievement is probably ever increasingly fleeting (looking at China’s transitions). My introspection on this is to suggest that, in your departure, there is more significance to the meaning of change in Beijing, in China, and in our lives for those of us who chose to take part during this phenomenal China evolution since the 1980’s/1990’s forward. I imagine that in your 19 years that you’ve seen many a departure of people who you initially thought…would be China-hands forever. It’s funny that, in Beijing, things change quickly; and suddenly people head home…often with knowledge of that day coming, but with a swiftness that sometimes feels as if practically overnight. That simply seems to signal that this is the pulse of the city; has been, and continues to be. However, for you, it signals a little bit more…an end of an era that I would propose had to do with Beijing’s development over time to the stage that it has become globally. To host a networking society of individuals throughout the buildup of Beijing, through the 2008 Olympics, to the structure of China’s political structure changes now under Xi; was, I mean, is there another word for it? …a glorious institution. I would imagine that because of these rapid changes, there was the clear opportunity to connect people positively because of it. And therein lies the birth of what you did…your organization practically becoming the veritable “Craig’s List” of connectivity through this.
It’s fascinating because, as you know, I think that many of us as foreigners are cognizant that China is changing beyond the wonder that it was where “anything went” to then “anything goes” to some calming now “new normalcy”. There’s a hundred different kinds of pizza, 24 hour fitness studios, chocolate donuts, and expensive brand-name dungarees. I imagine that in my outsiders observation of seeing you go, it is an embrace that the time that we spent in China is evolving, it is fleeting, and there is a sadness of realization that it is disappearing. I don’t feel that way about New York City; from whence I came. It’s basically the same place now as it was fifteen years ago. But Beijing, was so entirely odd and entrepreneurial; and I know that the many of us who arrived there to embrace and be included in that spirit (when our businesses or lives back home didn’t perhaps allow for it)…we saw you as a central figure at the center of it. You were an inspiring example of sustainability through all of the mix of cultures and ideas.
19 years in China is an amazing story; and I hope that you’ll tell it with your boots-on-the-ground knowledge of who you met and what you observed. You have a unique point of view that is central to an importance of understanding what Beijing was like and what it will be like for the future. I’m not entirely certain that I’d be comfortable arriving in Beijing at this time without a “Colin Friedman FC Group” in existence. I thank you for providing that foundation to me, my business aspirations, and those around me…even if I didn’t get an opportunity to attend as often as I would have liked. It was the knowledge that you and your organization were there…every Tuesday evening…somewhere…that gave pause and confidence; that if Colin can do it, well, so can we.