“Oh well in five years time we could be walking around the zoo with the sun shining down over me and you…”
Or…you could still be living in China.
You blink and take a few trains, too many planes, and before you know it, you’ve been here for five whole years. For 1,825 days, give or take a few, you have been frolicking on this Asian soil. A journey that began on a swelteringly hot day back in August 2010 with a broken-down bus in a city called Guangzhou. Fast forward five years with a skip to the south of that city and a hop to the right and you are smack bang in Guangzhou’s little sister Shenzhen. I would like to say I have spent the entire five years in one place, but that would be an absolute lie. I have mainly been in China (mainland) but there is of course my ongoing love affair with Taiwan and there was a brief but beautiful fling with Hong Kong. Oh, and there was a moment last year where I questioned why on earth I wasn’t living in Japan? I always do wonder if my university in South Africa had offered a Japanese course, would I find myself living in that quirky Murakami world instead of crazy China? I will never know, but hey, I could always move to Japan some other time…
Five years in Asia. Five years with my head bursting at the seams with all the new words, new cultural quirks, new places, new faces. Five years and thirteen Asian countries worth of stamps, memories and love. Five years older.
And I am nowhere near done. I don’t think I will ever be done with a place that has been my home. It will always be my home even when I’m not actually living there. My ears still twitch whenever I hear a South African accent and I haven’t lived there for five years. I see Scottish flags everywhere, even in the clouds and whenever anyone mentions Taiwan my eyes light up and my heart beats a little faster. I feel at home in Asia where it’s always a little warmer, where people show their gratitude through a bow or an ear-to-ear smile, where incense coils burn in mysterious corners and float along the alleyways, the dust settling on the red lanterns that hang from every eave. Monks swim by in the rush hour crowds of suits and old people play on the swings. The pungent scent of durian pierces your senses and there is no escaping stinky tofu. It will chase you down the chaotic streets and sooner or later you will end up chasing it. Things you could never imagine enjoying will become normal. You will swap your coffee for matcha tea and you will master chopsticks like a ninja. Oh, and you will most certainly start dreaming in the local language, and maybe you will even begin to use your feet to trace Chinese characters on your sheets while you sleep. It’s a weird and wonderful land here. It’s hard to actually comprehend five years worth of Asian adventures. This blog is also five years old if you don’t count the thousand mini interludes that I took from writing…
Well anyway, here’s to the next five years and wherever they may happen to take me. For now though, I am here. And no, there is no ‘five year plan’. I’m not sure they really pan out the way you want them to anyway because if I look back to my first day in China, I certainly didn’t think that five years later I’d still be living here. But that is life. It’s always surprising us. Just focus on being happy and spreading that happiness around wherever you happen to be, and the rest will fall into place.