I’m finishing this year much the same way I started it: saying goodbye to friends, camping on the Great Wall, and sunburned. It seems I cannot escape the sun’s wrath, much to the amusement of other, less pasty foreigners.
A group of us went to the Wall on the weekend before exams because why not do a massive hike and spend a night lying on a rock developing back problems. I was sat in the afterglow of the day hanging a foot off our tower, and because I’d been to the Wall at the start of the year, I was waxing lyrical about the passing of time and things coming full circle and how I felt like a different person and all that. You know, the kind of stuff that sounds great and profound in your head but just clumsy and obvious when you say it out loud ( or write it on your blog ).
Unlike at the beginning, however, I am bidding farewell to a different group of friends. Before I said goodbye in the UK, “see you soon, 10 months isn’t all that long”. Now I say goodbye to the friends I never expected to make in China, and not just for a year, maybe for longer, forever. Because of this, my feelings about this are quite mixed. On the one hand I’m dying to come home. It’s been a long time away, I miss a lot of people, I’m fed up with the smog, exams finished today so I have no reason to be here anymore, and I need the monotony of rice to end ( I am fast approaching the last bowel ). I may attack anyone who suggests going for a Chinese when I’m back. On the other hand, I will miss the friends I have here, and the little unreality that we’ve built as foreigners in this strange land. I will miss mixing beer and soju ( a Korean spirit ) and belting out Abba and the Kooks in KTV karaoke. I will miss cheap dumplings, crossing the road with total disregard, and the challenge of speaking Chinese everyday. Life in English seems just a little dull.
Saying that, life in English won’t begin just yet. Since I also study German, I’ll be spending most of the summer in Heidelberg in south Germany doing ( more ) language study. Baozi, Tisngtao beer, and KTV to Wurst, Pilsner, and the Euros. They say you get reverse culture shock when you come home, but what about from one foreign country to another? Although I leave China, and I have written mostly about Beijing life, I will likely write a couple of posts from Heidelberg, about the contrast and about how Europe is weird in its own way. After that, I intend to return to Britain properly, unless we vote to leave and I get stuck in Germany.
In other news, I have not married a Chinese woman and I have not “found myself”. I don’t go in for that “finding yourself” stuff, partly because it makes the world all about you ( Vietnam is just waiting to give you a fish bowl and tell you who you are ), and partly because I think losing yourself is more important. You realise that a lot of the world doesn’t work the way that you’re used to, or that you think it should. And you learn that in somewhere like China you are a stranger and weirdo by default, and China doesn’t care about you. It swallows you in a single mouthful, pummels you with its language, crushes you with an angry hangover from fake alcohol, gives you dim-sum diarrhoea and then spits you out as a different person. You can love it or hate it, but you don’t come away thinking just, “meh”. China has probably changed me ( I don’t mind barging people or shouting at cyclists anymore ), but I’m not exactly walking around barefoot and unshowered playing a ukulele and talking about the journey that we’re all on. I haven’t changed that much, I hope.
Until I fly back, I’ve got to pack my life back into two cases ( including a small library and my skates ), get rid of a guitar, off-load my now broken bike ( he did well, poor thing ), deal with the mountain of loose change on my bedside table. And before any of that it’s the last performance at KTV tonight, which is why I’m hammering out this post in between episodes of the Walking Dead and mouthfuls of supermarket sushi.
This will likely be my last post in China. Thanks to all the blog faithful. Your following does not go unnoticed, I see you in my WordPress statistics. Shout out to any Redcliffians reading, both teachers and students. Shout out my fellow bloggers who know the real struggle, especially Joe Haniff, who has taken a good few of the photos on my blog and was the original inspiration for starting the blog. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it. If you don’t, then you can blame Joe.
Next time I’ll be writing from the Western side.