Reflections on Leaving China

I’m leaving China.

This seems like such a strange thing to me now. I’ve been living here for almost a year. I have my places to get good cups of tea, I have my usual restaurants where I eat meals, I even have my corners where I sit on a bench and stare blankly at the sky when I’m really tired. I have people I see every day, who smile and say hello to me even if we can’t talk any more to each other because of the language barrier and I have the bus routes that take me to and fro the places I’m always visiting.
And I’m leaving all of that behind.

I’ve always had the enviable ability to make my home wherever I happen to be and this has been a bonus throughout my life. It’s never taken me long to settle into a new place, work out where to get a good cup of tea and make it my home. But now I’m leaving my home.  

Literally, this is my home. This noisy, smelly and polluted city is my home and I’m leaving it in three weeks exactly today. I’m really torn about the prospect and trying to work out how I feel.

Am I happy that I will be able to go back to Australia and see loved ones? Or sad about the people I’m leaving behind here? Am I excited at the thought of going to all the familiar restaurants at home and eating old favourites? Or will I find myself missing the food and places here? Will I miss the noise and crush of the city? Or will I be happy to get into a quieter life and finally cough up the last of China from my admittedly taxed lungs? Will the blue skies compensate for the excitement of exploring a new neighbourhood? Will eating fish and chips make up for not being able to get real dumplings with sweet chilli sauce?

I really don’t know the answer.  

There are things I will miss like my students and food and places and fellow teachers and a way of life and the constant excitement of working out how to survive in a foreign language. And there will be things I don’t miss like the pollution, the crowds, the utter lack of road laws, the spitting, the rats, the dirt, the rubbish and the appalling treatment of animals (really, don’t ask and don’t make me think about it).  

I’m excited and nervous. I’m happy and sad. I’m grateful and dismissive. I’m positive and negative. That’s me all over at the moment. I want to go home and I’m already thinking about my next trip. I want to see family and friends and I’m afraid of how I’ll fit into their lives and whether they can fit into mine in the same way. I’m dreaming of a seafood basket from the local fish and chip shop and I’m trying to eat as many dumplings as I can while I’m here. I’m thinking of the smell of the rain at home and… well, no… none of the smells here are pleasant let alone worthy of being missed.

But you get the point.  

Three weeks to go and I’ve already checked out to a point. I’m thinking about the future, planning, working out where to go next and how to get there and at the same time I’m trying to enjoy and memorise everything I’m doing while I’m still here. I’m looking to the future and wallowing in the past and there’s an important point to this juxtaposition that I want to highlight and remember.

 This is what it should be like. This is what it is like to leave home, to face new challenges and new things and new stretches. This is how it feels to really live.

Help me remember that for the dull, grey times.



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