Less than 2 months now… this sentence could be followed by two very different phrases. Either ‘Less than two months now – to enjoy myself and make the most of my time here,’ or ‘until I am on a plane finally leaving.’
This month, these two lines have very much been circling around each other, fighting for the most prominent place in my mind. As the finish line gets nearer, the anticipation and impatience for normality, for family and friends, for Home gets stronger. But at the same time I must ask myself why I am striving for this ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ so much. My year abroad has hardly been a narrow, dark place; instead it has been an open playground filled with new experiences and opportunities, which I have tried to grab as they’ve flown past. I must still try.
My feelings have been very conflicted towards these current moments in my life. On the one hand, I missed my little sister’s birthday, something that I really felt quite harshly. It made me realise that the world I am seemingly falling into – one where my ideal career would allow me to travel – also requires a lot of sacrifice when it comes to time with loved ones. This realisation has been furthered by my ambition to even up my language skills in French. Since I have neglected it a lot this year, I applied – and have been accepted – to work in the Alps over the summer at a French speaking hotel. Over the whole summer. This opportunity is of course a great one, but it seems my year abroad is still far away from being over. I have to be honest and say that it is harder to be thankful for opportunities such as these when your heart is yearning for home.
In addition, as a scholarship student we have been told we have to take the HSK5 exam for Chinese, a notoriously tough test that will coincide with my dissertation’s due date and my normal university exams in Xiamen. Needless to say, this pressure has been keeping me busy, and perhaps this is also inhibiting my ability to relish the rest of my time in China to the fullest extent.
But now we must talk about some positive things, of which there are still many. These are the things that I am confident I will look back on, when I am at home and my heart is satisfied and ready to welcome nostalgia.
There are so many things that I love about China, and even more that I will miss. I say this because I will not necessarily crave the cultural differences that perhaps took me a while to accept, but these are things that now I can attribute to the country, and that I and my friends over here view rather as the quirky characteristics that make China what it is. I will crave the warm days and nights, where the pace of life seems so much more relaxed. Where people in the cities stay out until the early hours of the morning – but not in the sense that they are drinking and partying. I mean the groups of elderly men sitting out under the city lights and playing Mahjong, the street sellers working until 4 and children playing out in the street. It gives one a sense of comfort, knowing that other beings are awake at all hours, and the night does not make things just ‘stop’ and be silent, as it sometimes can where I come from.
The kindness and curiosity of people I do not know towards me here is something that I have also rarely experienced before. I have entered into so many conversations with people on buses and trains, in the streets, and cafés whilst doing work. The openness with with people interact is very heartwarming, and their patience with my language has no doubt made me feel so much more confident when trying to speak Chinese in public. In the theatre of life, the Chinese are definitely not a hard audience, and are eager to encourage and engage.
There are so many more things that I could talk about, such as my wonderful friends here, my perfect roommate, sweetest teachers, marvellous food and glamorous job which has allowed me to travel and discover different cities for free. But I have written an essay already, therefore I will demonstrate these moments with pictures instead. It seems rather fitting since, after everything, the memories and pictures will be the tools which I use to reenter this exciting world.