It’s almost inevitable that if you’re living or have lived in China, you’ll have experienced a ‘China Day’ or two. Those days where every single thing about this country, culture and society are going to bring you down and leave you screaming at the top of your lungs ‘Chinaaaaaaaa!’ I can’t deny, that I too, have most definitely rendezvoused with these thoughts. When I first arrived in China, fresh off the boat, it was an almost daily occurrence. Why? Well, because I couldn’t fathom the idea that maybe it wasn’t their problem, maybe it was mine. I was the outsider and instead of trying to integrate into the society, I sought out it’s problems and complained about them incessantly on the brink of driving myself stir crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I was learning the language and I actually liked China, but it was a weird kind of love hate relationship taken to a new extreme. Every Sunday I would get on the metro knowing that it would be packed to the brim, and every Sunday evening when the smoggy sun began to set I would swim through the crowds in tears, not stopping to breathe until I was safe in my bubble of a dorm where I’d turn to my roommate from Hong Kong and list my complaints for the day. She always laughed (perhaps awkwardly) and I always instantly felt better. Gosh, who even was I back then?!
Four years on, and we’re still going strong- China and I. This time however, we’ve developed something deeper. Sometimes, I still secretly complain about little things in my head but I instantly push them out as quickly as they crept in because I know that they will poison me and hold me back. I don’t want to huddle up in my cute little apartment, eating only food that I’ve ordered online, safe in the knowledge that if I stay inside, nothing will bother me. I didn’t spend 9 months of my life intensively studying this beautiful, intricate language to waste away my days in a monolingual mindset. I want to use my new skill that, in a very non-arrogant way, I actually feel pretty proud of. I’m still learning and I’ve got a long way to go to reach a level that I’ll feel fully satisfied with, but in order to reach that, I’m going to have to use it. That means accepting and respecting the country I find myself in and focusing on it’s positive points as opposed to the negative elements that burrowed me down deep four years ago.
It’s not easy, believe me. Even in my tiny, little village in Scotland with a population of 200 it’s sometimes hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on life 24/7, but throw a few billion into the pot and well, you get the picture. I have to say though, if the UK were suddenly to multiply and reach a couple billion, I don’t know if we’d survive. It puts a few things in perspective and makes you take a back seat instead of jumping straight onto the judgemental bandwagon.
I took a break from China for a year and a half and I believe it has done wonders. I didn’t leave because I needed a break, I left because I fell in love with Taiwan and I chased that dream as much as I could, with a stop in Hong Kong along the way for good measure. Now I’m back and it’s hard to describe the thousands of feelings that rush through my mind on a daily basis here.
The main thing for me is that in the month I had in Scotland previous to moving back here, I decided to adopt an attitude that would prepare me for only positive thoughts. I knew it’d be the only way that I could really achieve what I’ve come here to do, and at the same time ensure that I enjoyed it every step of the way. If I wake up one day and find myself complaining about every teeny-tiny thing, I’ll pack my bags and I’ll leave- it’s that simple.
I like China. I like that no day is the same even if I do get on the same bus every morning at 7.58am, passing the same group of ladies who dance with magnetic tennis racquets outside the Walmart. I like the food and the fact that no matter how much you’ve tried there will always be something new for your taste buds. I like the tea, all the tea of China! I like that really, deep down, no city or village in this vast, sprawling country is ever the same as the last one. I like learning about the many quirks and superstitions that encompass this ancient civilization. I like balancing my yin and yang, and yes, I do like drinking only warm water.