"Wish You Happy Every Day": An Expat's Life in China


Back from China Again
August 22, 2015, 12:05 pm
Filed under: the expat life | Tags:

I blinked and my trip was over. I am both sad and relieved — sad to leave China behind yet again, but I can’t deny how good it feels to be back on American soil.

Because we were so busy–too busy, actually, to wait around for WordPress to load, along with every other non-Baidu-searchable website. I will have to add a backlog of posts over the next few weeks. Some may have to appear next week, after Lipeng arrives, because many of the necessary pictures are on his camera.

This particular visit to China was extremely busy because there were a lot of family visits and celebrations of our marriage (which actually happened last year). So there weren’t a lot of boots on the ground-type explorations of China. Still, there were some wonderful moments that would be hard to picture occurring in America, which I can’t wait to relate on the blog.

I must say, this time around, I’ve returned without regrets. I’ve been relishing my daily coffee, the clean, blue skies and the casual conversations that emerge with people that I encounter each day (in China, it’s much rarer to chat with strangers). And I’m relieved to see my plants still alive.

An uncomfortable thought bothered me all throughout the trip, though, which is the question: could I ever expatriate again in the future? Even though I identify as an expat, I realize now how comfortable I’ve gotten in California, thanks to friends, a literary community, fun stuff happening every weekend, good weather and the year-round availability of fresh, organic and surprisingly affordable produce–not to mention the convenience of things like browsing my local library, or being around like-minded people. A year ago, my lack of job security blinded me to these pleasures — and while I’m not exactly on an SF tech job salary, I can at least enjoy my life.

Whereas, as an expat in China, money would not be something to worry about (assuming the Chinese economy does not impact language schools), but the trade-off is to endure the dark side of life in China . . . pollution, corruption, getting ripped off everywhere you go . . . this time around, any time we wanted to buy something Lipeng would have to shoo me away before the salespeople could see my face. This is not a way to live. And of course, there’s the Baidu prison. Baidu is the only functional search engine! Goodbye, Google, Yahoo and just about every website I like to visit. I almost kissed my phone when I got to Korea for my layover. (Helpful hint: the BBC news website is blocked, but the app works. Small mercies, indeed.)

A year ago, two years ago, was my homesickness for China just a knee-jerk reaction to my financial situation? I don’t really want to think that that’s the case. There are so many wonderful people, memories, food, little details that pull me back to Dalian . . . And let’s not forget that getting kicked out meant not leaving on my own terms and feeling that my time there had ended prematurely. Since then, I’ve been back twice and had my fill. On the morning of my departure I did not cry over the dumplings that Lipeng’s mom had made. I hadn’t felt the need to retrace my steps to old haunts, like Olympic Square or Xi’an Lu or Transformers. I’d drunk the cup and had my fill and felt the warm glow of satisfaction.  Have I been cured of homesickness?  To say yes would be speaking too soon: as the queen of homesickness, I’m sure I’ll be humming a different tune in the coming months.

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2 Comments so far
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just discovered your blog today! love your writing style, so lucid and engaging. been gobbling up posts all day. i really appreciated your post about surviving the CELTA. i am planning on taking it within the next year and it is nice to have an idea of what to expect. best wishes on this next stage of your life!

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Comment by Julie H

Thank, Julie! I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. If you have questions about the CELTA or living abroad, don’t hesitate to ask!

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Comment by altogo




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