Hello! It’s 2020! Which means I definitely have left China now. Presumably. Unless something has gone drastically wrong with my mind…hmm…anyway! As will become apparent in the forthcoming post, I did not write this in 2020. I actually thought about scrapping it and never letting it see the light of day, but hell, I wrote it and even typed it up and added pictures, so I’d done all the hard work already! Here then, are my rather fresh thoughts immediately after leaving. I promise I’ll think about finishing the rest of the stories eventually…
As I write this, from a beach in Thailand on a sunny August afternoon, I’ve now left China. It’s not exactly new news – it’s been in the works for over six months now – but after a year and a half I’ve left the country. And I don’t know when I’ll be back. By the time the end of August rolls around I’ll be in Canada, with plans to stay for at least the next year. But that’s another story.
For me, it’s one of those cliched times of mixed emotions. While I’m happy to be moving on and potentially working toward things I’d like to do more of in life (like being lazy), there are a lot of things I’m going to miss about living in Fuzhou. Here, I’d like to commemorate a few.
Not Being Poor
One of the best things about living in China has been not being poor. ESL teaching isn’t going to make anyone (investors aside) rich, but it’s pretty easy to live a comfortable life, free of monetary issues. While in China, I never had to worry about how I would pay the bills, whether I could buy some random stuff I wanted, or even if I could afford to catch a train across the (very large) country to do some sightseeing. It’s all pretty possible on an ESL teacher wage.
There are a lot of things that make living in China difficult – visa issues, the need for a VPN to access half the internet, and language boundaries being major ones. A major bonus though, is that some things are so convenient. Mobile apps like WeChat and Alipay allow you to never carry around any money, while simultaneously being the main form of communication (there’s no Whatsapp or Facebook here) and a way to buy tickets for trains, movies and the like. Elema and Meituan give you the ability to order food to your doorstep (for considerably cheaper than anything back home) and Taobao is the app to procure almost anything. I’m pretty sure even pets are good to go on there.
On street level, transport, whether taxis or buses or trains, is so much cheaper too. Back home I wouldn’t think about using a taxi due to the cost, but I can get across the city in China for £3. The best though, is the e-bike. Essentially electric scooters, they’re cheap to buy, economical, and can be charged pretty much anywhere. While I’ve grown progressively more wary on the e-bike due to the crazy maneuvers I’ve witnessed on a daily basis. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to manage day to day life commutes on terrible bus services again.
Holidays & Places to Go
Ok, it’s not like there aren’t places to go in the UK or Canada, but the wealth of options and ease of getting to them is something I will miss. The train system is a big part of this. Want to get to Shanghai from Fuzhou? Four hours. Up north to Beijing? Nine hours. Across the country to Kunming? Only 11 hours. There are still definitely bureaucracy issues – having to wait in line and pick up your (already purchased) tickets by 30 minutes before the train arrives springs to mind – but considering I’ve spent six hours trying to make it from east Manchester to Nottingham on the train before, it really is a breeze.
One thing I won’t miss about China’s attractions? Steps. Seriously, we don’t need concrete steps up every mountain, guys.
Hands down the biggest thing I’m going to miss about living in China is all the friends I’ve made out here, both Chinese and otherwise. Pretty much everyone I’ve met has been nice, despite my poor (read: non existent) Chinese, but especially those I’ve worked with over the past 18 months. They’re the biggest contribution to my bittersweet feelings about leaving a place that I’ll always consider a bit of home.
Now though, it’s on to Canada, home to hopefully not as cold winters as I’m expecting, but less stressful workplaces than before. I’ll get around to posting about it at some point. Just after I manage the last year of China, obviously.