I went to see the cardiologist on Friday, here is Sydney. She took one look at my Beijing ecg report and raised her eyebrows. If the machine was correct, I'd had one of the highest rates of cardiac arryhtmia she's ever heard of. But now it's all back to normal. She just couldn't work it out, and wondered whether the machine or technician had recorded things correctly. She also took a look at the pills I'd been prescribed for my heart condition by the internal medicine specialist at the Sino Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing.
"Did you take any of these?" she asked.
No, I replied, somewhat guiltily.
"Just as well, they would have made things a lot worse, not better," and she threw them in the bin.
After a thorough exam, she said I'd had apparently had a temporary but potentially serious episode of atrial arrhythmia [a heart murmer to you]. Her prescription was rest, no coffee or chocolate, some beta-blockers just in case, and a decent diet. She couldn't say what had caused it, but it wasn't stress or psychological, she reckoned.
"It must be something in the water over there," she concluded.
Well I guess that's my Beijing adventures over for a while then.
Looking back on it all, I have realised that I was never going to adapt to working in Beijing. I love the city and Beijingers, but as a place to work the city is, well, not for me. Despite all the hype about Beijing being the wave of the future, and China having a "can-do" culture, I found that it is still the same crusty old northern city underneath. The can-do attitude may apply to business, but in the media it is definitely still "foreigners can not do". Just ask Rupert Murdoch, Mark Kitto [founder of That's Beijing] or Scott Savitt [founder of Beijing Scene, also run out of town]. The lesson is that when it comes to the media in China, unless you are a foreign correspondent working for a western company, you are going to get screwed.
Another thing I realised was that most of the Beijingers I met were working like mad to try and attain the things that I already have at home. A car, a decent house in a nice suburb, interesting places to visit, and a little luxury. They all want the VIP lifestyle, but I already have that here: I can drive down to Bronte beach and let my kids play alongside those of Lachlan Murdoch and supermodel Sarah O Hare any weekend I like.
If I want to read some interesting Chinese literature I can find the latest by Ma Jian at Kinokuniya, but not at Xinhua on Wanfujing.
Of course there are some things I will miss. The ridiculously cheap and excellent food. Overhearing the wry humour and civilised talk of everyday Beijingers. Riding my [now stolen] bike down through the hutongs. Stuff like that. Oh, and the chance to see weird and wonderful things like North Korean and Cuban cabaret.
But I can't say I'll miss the weather, the pollution, the traffic, the spitting or the "Let's All Hate Japan and Blame the Foreigners For Everything" national mentality. I also found that a lot of expat life in Beijing revolves around drinking, which I can do without. And the concrete. It's nice to be able to have a bit of grass that you can sit on that doesn't have a fence around it, or need daily sprinkler treatment to keep it green.
I've also realised that my interest in China is really focused on the south west, and I will revert back to my annual treks down into the unexplored parts of the Yalong canyon and the peaks of Muli (see my other blog, In the Footsteps of Joseph Rock
In the meantime, I will keep one eye on China Daily
, on the off chance that they actually start to report something on what happening about bird flu. The WHO and the UN are now saying that a worldwide pandemic of H5N1 flu is a certainty, and guess where it will orginate from? China - and most likely Guangdong. But while every other country in East and SE Asia is reporting an increasing number of suspected cases and deaths, China still has a news blackout on the whole matter. All they are saying is that they are "prepared", and that some wild ducks in Qinghai have died. China is covering up hundreds and possibly thousands of cases of bird flu, and no doubt many human infections and possibly deaths too. For all its moral posturing about being a country of laws and more openness, it is now endangering the whole world with its secretive attitude towards this potentially global disaster.
Well, I hope we get a bit of warning before it hits Australia's shores. I'm off now to buy some Tamiflu. Because I think that when bird flu strikes. it will make the 2008 Olympics, the Taiwan question and even the occupation of Iraq seem insignificant.
As for the future, I will continue to blog about Sydney. The problem is that a comfortable and pleasant life makes for excrutiatingly boring reading. If you're feeling masochistic, or just want to see some nice photos of beaches and happy families, head to Photos of Sydney
. See you there.