Many people travel for personal and professional reasons. But to actually leave home, uproot yourself and plant yourself in a new country is a whole different ballgame. Over the years, I’ve met many expat kids who get hauled from country to country because of their parents’ jobs. I’ve watched many of them enter adulthood wondering where ‘home’ is. I can’t say I fully understand the sentiment.
Xi’an was once the ancient capital of China – and you can certainly feel it. No one stares at me – or even bothers with a double take. You can see layers and layers of history everywhere you turn. The city’s many historical monuments, ancient ruins and tombs give you the sense that many important events occurred here. After all, Xi’an was an ancient imperial capital and eastern departure point of the Silk Road.
I’m relatively familiar with history of the Uyghur Community in Xinjiang Province – since it’s covered in the news a fair bit – but I was largely unaware of the Hui People of Xi’an. But ignorance is nothing that a bit of light reading and personal experience can’t fix. The origin of the Hui People is believed to have started on the Silk Road as a result of the intermarriage between Muslim traders and Han Chinese.
Zhejiang Province is an industrial area populated with factories, businesses and businesspeople that emit copious amounts of smoke. You simply cannot run from the grey fog. Clear skies are rare. Given the poor air quality, I still can’t wrap my head around the number of smokers around here. And they smoke wherever they like. But that’s another story for another day. Anyhow, I’m not sure if this is the right town for me. There just isn’t enough heart or soul to keep me happy – even though materially I lack nothing.
Fast forward a year later, and I’m living in Zhejiang Province. I’d heard largely good things about it before I moved here. I’m not surprised. It is the ‘money province’. Unlike Shanghai and Beijing, it isn’t super crowded. Most of my Chinese friends said that it is one of the best places in China to live. Compared to other cities, the air quality here is supposed to good. (Ahem… Ahem…) It’s a great place for locals to live and is not one of those cities that’s littered with a whole load of expats. Oh and by the way – Ali Baba is headquartered in Hangzhou.
The weeping willows that were everywhere had a way of making the West Lake area look tragic for reasons that I can’t possibly fathom. The weeping willows were lovely – in a melancholic kind of way. I never knew a tree was capable of such great sadness…
There’s nothing like sitting in your bed with a beer and shopping in the comfort of your apartment. Unfortunately, the Taobao website is entirely in Chinese and the banking procedure is kind of complicated. My boss told me about Baopals which is an English version of the website complete with English language support. Although I would have figured out how to use the Chinese version eventually, I couldn’t be bothered messing around with it… Baopals is slightly more expensive than Taobao, but hey… I’m happy to pay for the convenience.
Although I’m not in a megacity like Beijing or Shanghai, the smog that hangs over the city is still there. There are good days and bad days. Somedays I look out and am surprised to see clear skies. And other days it’s so polluted I can barely make out the next building. This is despite the fact that I live in an area that’s full of trees and is pretty far away from any factories.
Pinch me. Seriously just pinch me. Am I really here? Am I really living here?
I’ve only been in Beijing a couple of hours, but so far, the whole experience has been a bit overwhelming. I can’t blame anyone but myself. I’m a seasoned traveller, I know – but I’m a terrible holiday planner. I’m the kind of person who likes to make things up as I go along; which means that I hadn’t made anything up before I got here. Silly me.