Higgins: Watching my world from afar

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | JUNE 22, 2015 5:00 AM

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Chris Higgins is a DI staffer interning abroad at China Daily for the summer.

BEIJING — “Come back for the Fourth of July,” my friend urges me on WeChat. I ask where the party is.

Without hesitation, he names that one club in Iowa City in which a particular remix might be playing. However, I can’t help but make my own request: that my friend commemorate Independence Day with me right here, in the People’s Republic of China.

I experienced some mild news withdrawal before I had full Internet access here in Beijing. I missed an entire state Board of Regents’ meeting during my journey, and by the time I was able to forward a related story two days later, it was immediately shot down as “old news.”

It was old, and the forward in question felt a bit strange. As a Daily Iowan staffer, I’ve devoted much of my energy to higher-education topics and issues. I’ll admit I could be a bit jealous, as section editor, of the reporters who were able to attend various important meetings and events that my own schedule barred.

Only, halfway across the world, issues back in Iowa suddenly felt less tangible once the daily journalistic churn disappeared for a few days. It was slightly horrifying.

As I flip through Iowa media outlets now sitting in Beijing, the stories have less context outside of my computer screen than back home. I could simply scroll past and forget about them until the next time they wash up in the headline tide.

The goal of all reporters is to grind through each meeting, each quote, each press conference hoping for that one article will resonate with the audience. Away from the DI for the summer, I’ve become a member of the audience.

It’s all too easy to tune out the news back home and instead put my job, my life, on hiatus for two months. Suddenly, I’m instead obligated to enjoy and explore Beijing, not actively worry about the state of the tuition freeze. (I still do.)

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me back to the Fourth of July, falling on a Saturday this year. I’m sure it’ll follow the template of my past two weekends in Beijing: daytime sightseeing, followed by sampling baijiu in a dimly lit hutong bar or perhaps waltzing into club playing hits from 2012.

At the latter, a Chinese man who lives in New York bellowed “one world, one dream” at me, reciting the 2008 Olympics motto over the roar of Nicki Minaj. He wanted to ensure that I’ve been enjoying his country.

Clearly, I have.

But I’m still in a dream here. I’m away from my own world, my reality (for the next two years, at least): Iowa City, the DI, the UI. The tuition freeze. The daily journalistic stew. Spending Father’s Day with my dad. The friends and family I won’t be able to celebrate the Fourth of July with.

So to my friend: If you snag a last-minute ticket to Beijing, I could show you where the party is, in fact. However, I think a reunion back home would be even sweeter. We’ll grab Hamburg.

In the meantime, we can keep up on WeChat (while I refresh the Gazette).

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