One: I tend not to talk about myself, or really be the first one to talk at all. I’m not introverted, because I love people, I just like to listen.
Two: When I do get talking however, I really enjoy arguing. I think it’s the best way to learn about someone else and how they think about the world. It’s not for some self-gratifying ‘look at me I’m right’ ideal either. I have no hesitation in conceding or changing my viewpoint when I think you are correct (but I will fight to the bitter end before acknowledging it).
Three: I am a dog person and think cat people are strange.
Four: I’m incredibly lazy, but my intelligence lets me get away with far more than it should.
Five: I really should have studied science, not art. But I don’t think an allegiance to one or the other dictates a valuable career. Here’s hoping I can figure out the balance and make it rich before I’m 50.
Six: I don’t see myself living in New Zealand for another decade or so. Which is an exciting and terrifying thought.
Seven: I am attracted to girls a lot more than guys.
Eight: I really hate being late to anything. Time dictates my movement more than I’d like to admit.
Nine: I think this list is stupid but my narcissistic side is filled with glee over it.
Some lessons I learnt about the trials of coming home.
Check your visa status. My visa for legally being in China expired June 24. My ticket home was split across two journeys, one from Beijing to Guangzhou at 1730 – 2045 on June 24, and one from Guangzhou to Auckland at 0030 – 1600 (+1) on June 25. Already Chinese Customs saw a slight mathematical problem. I was going to be an illegal alien for half an hour. I was warned to go through Guangzhou Customs very quickly, as once you’re in no-mans-land you’re technically out of such jurisdictions.
7kgs overweight check-in baggage equals NZD $200 fine. I wish suitcases came with a built in scale in the handle to show you how much it weighs as you pack.
Travel pillows are the difference between passing out on a plane and genuinely sleeping for at least two hours. Beer also aids the sleep process. Abuse the free alcohol.
Free wireless in airports is great, but don’t mess with the password system or it will lock you out and you will be forced to people watch in airports. TIL: people in airports are the epitome of weirdly dressed individuals.
Pack your carry-on with laptop accessibility in mind. You will feel like you are the one individual who holds up the entire security line if you don’t. Tip: cameras are also another tech accessory that need special security scanning. (Why you would make a camera shaped bomb is another question entirely).
Chinese security are genuinely very nice and don’t make you feel like a hindrance.
Unless you have scissors in your bag. In which case they become very protective.
Always clean out backpacks you use on a daily basis before packing. There could be a sneaky pair of scissors. Or eighteen (inside joke).
Chinese do not understand space. We were herded onto a bus that connected us to our place (BJ-GZ flight) and naturally they all head for the first of three doors. I walked to the end door of the bus and stood in the back as I watched the first third of the bus become more and more like a sardine can. Finally the driver said something in Mandarin I can only think is the equivalent to ‘you idiotic morons, move down to the very back!’ And finally all was well.
Delayed planes can really mess up an already sticky visa situation. The first plane was grounded for as long as the film ‘Great Expectations’, the one starring Helena Bonham Carter, takes to screen, which was almost three hours (terrible choice China Southern, terrible). Finally after four hours from original take-off time it finally taxied onto the runway and took off.
Chinese kids are too damn smart. One six year old wunderkind whooped his mum in xiangqi (a chinese variation of chess that has cannons!) and was always five moves ahead of her.
It is totally acceptable to stand and watch people play cards/chess/any game on any Chinese domestic flight.
Four hour flight delays means you definitely miss your connecting flight.
All English supplied in China is purely courteous. To my knowledge (and from my limited Google searches) English is not a registered official language of Greater China. So for all you foreigners (I’m looking at you large obnoxious Danish man I encountered), who complain about the service provided (which I thought was exceptional given it was 1am and hotels are hard to access at this time), remember what country you are complaining in and that there is no one language to rule them all.
Being a solo white female traveller has its perks – you are the only one allowed a room to yourself in the hotel the airline provides you with when you overstay your welcome (silly weather).
A good way to kill time in a hotel – slow mo videos.
Smiles are a universal currency, and also a good way to score free breakfast lunch and dinner courtesy of the friend I made at the front desk.
Sometimes being a solo white female traveller sucks, I’m looking at you random Nigerian guy who approached me asking what flight I was on. ‘Err, I’m from Paris’ (bolt).
China is a stickler for the details, almost detained because of visa, finally allowed to board the plane I PAID FOR TO GO HOME because the manager actually thought it was a good idea.
China doesn’t believe in duty-free alcohol. Much sadness was felt.
Airbuses don’t always come with in-flight entertainment.
If you are on a Chinese airline and can speak some Mandarin, use it to talk to the flight attendants (for food, drinks etc). They genuinely get a real kick out of it.
“Excuse me”. An elderly gentleman of about a metre distance from me says these two words in my direction, as he walks towards the bread in the distant back area of this particular supermarket aisle we are both standing in.
Wait, what did I just hear?
What a foreign concept this is to me. When did that surprise me?
Reverse culture shock is the process of re-adjusting to the area you used to refer to as ‘yours’. That place which used to be comfortably natural, and a good reference to what the base definition of the word normality is.
That place that just made sense.
I honestly cannot call any place my own place with certainty now. And I quite enjoy admitting that.
There is a difference between a place of your own and a home though. I do have a home. It is filled with my wondrous family, who are graciously putting up with my broke 22 year old ass for the two months I am living there. This is the place I learnt life, and will forever be a valuable nostalgic place with which I can remember all the beautiful and terrifying emotions when the words ‘grow’ and ‘up’ are mingled together.
But it is not my own.
I am still looking for that place.
This is a very interesting and unusual transitory phase I am experiencing now. Because I am in New Zealand for two months (in between contracts) I will have time to explore and write about these new feelings, and get to know my home all over again. It has only been four days as I write this, so I feel the best is yet to come. Or maybe I’m still in shock about being back in New Zealand. Ten months in China really flew by.
What do you call a home? Is it different from what you call your own?