When you’re sick, really horribly sick, your whole day’s existence is filled with just trying to survive the time in between sleeps. I’ve experienced quite a nasty flu this weekend and am now on the mend. I’ve been ill about 6 times since I moved to China. My immune system does not like it here. Whether its the freezing cold weather, or the polluted air, or maybe even just new germs being introduced, I’m sure I’ll never know. But the question that begs to be asked now that my immune system is fighting back is, do I like it here? Some weeks, I would say no. Some times when people ask me how I like living in China, the most I can say is that it’s an adventure! And other times I don’t have the energy for that and just reply that living here is tough. Then those weeks pass.. they tend to be the really cold, polluted ones, and then I see sun and blue skies again, or I do something unusually fun, and all of sudden I’m once again totally impressed with my new life. I know it sounds a bit bi-polar, but its the honest truth. China is hard, living here is difficult, exhausting at times. Even the simplest, ordinary tasks such as grocery shopping or ordering food become unpredictable experiences that you must gear yourself up for and remind yourself not to be disappointed when something goes awry, because that is the adventure of China. Its a Russian roulette! Maybe, 5 meals in a row, you’ve successfully ordered edible (and vegetarian!) food to eat.. but be careful, because that sixth time they may put “just a little” pork in there, no matter how many ways you’ve asked them in Mandarin not to, because “its good for you!” Having an ayi is similar. My ayi comes once a week to clean my apartment, which is ridiculously affordable here. Yes, a total luxury that I will never be able to afford state-side. However, since we can’t communicate for various reasons (she’s illiterate, doesn’t speak English, my Chinese is rubbish, she only comes when I’m at work..), she does things that boggle my mind. Twice she rearranged my furniture (differently each time) for no apparent reason. She once moved everything around in my kitchen, and even though I have shown her, she has no idea where to put away my clothes, so most of the time, I can’t find anything to wear, because it could be anywhere! Now I know it sounds like more trouble than its worth but to be honest, I prefer not to spend my time scrubbing the tile floor of my entire, rather large 2 bedroom apartment. (I know, first-world problems..) So you see, it’s the yin and yang. I’m not sure I noticed it so much in my life back in the states, but it is ever-present here. The challenge really is just going with the flow, laughing at the inconsistencies, and keeping a positive attitude.
A new year usually brings about resolutions. “I will lose weight!” or “I will be a better friend!” Last year, mine was to move abroad, and here I am! This year, I’m not sure I have one. My goal (I suppose) is not just to survive everyday living in China, but to enjoy it. All of it.. or, well, most of it. (The constant hacking and spitting in the street is something I’ll probably not learn to enjoy.) I told myself when I moved here in August that I was going to be a “yes” person, and I have indeed become one! Say yes, and figure it out afterwards. Because of this, I have hiked the Great Wall 3 times, traveled around beautiful parts of China with friends I hardly knew yet, explored a large and confusing city, and successfully figured out the subway system. <<I recently read Wild, and while I’m sure I’m not up to hiking the PCT alone, I did feel that I could do something adventurous like that. While reading I felt brave and confident, just like the protagonist. I felt inspired.. maybe someday I will do something like that, to test my strength, to get out into the wilderness, to have another adventure. Now, I’m pretty sure this is a new development in my character.>> My goal in moving to China was to learn and grow and be a better me. I wasn’t too explicit about what a better me would look like, and some days to be honest, it feels like China brings out the worst me. It has a way of testing me. I don’t always pass the test. Maybe the whole experience is just molding me into a more culturally aware and capable, independent human being. I certainly feel like one. I can’t say that I know how to speak Mandarin fluently, and I haven’t learned how to cook Chinese cuisine yet, but I can live here! I can live here and have a life.. it looks so oddly different from life back home, but its real. At the end of the day, I am happy I took this leap and I am happy to be here. So that’s enough.. for now. All my love XX