As an expert procrastinator, I spend many a lazy morning in bed, break at work or time that should be spent working, reading various blogs. And as the New Year rolls closer I’ve been reading a lot of 2015 roundups. Always one to quite happily hop on a bandwagon I thought I would do one of my own, particularly as I think it’s safe to say that not many years of my life will involve quite as much change, adventures or nerves as this one!
Bye Bye London
Just one month shy of my 6 year anniversary in London, and after approximately 3 years of talking about doing it, I finally donated half my clothes to charity, got rid of the collection of bedding I had ruined with fake tan, packed up my remaining belongings and left London behind. A city I both loved and hated I was more than ready for our break-up. As much as I loved (and still love!) the people I know there, I was more than sick of the Victoria Line commutes, evil landlords and the feeling that I was throwing away my money to support a lifestyle I no longer wanted. Whilst I definitely miss having endless options for both mindless entertainment and culture just a stones throw away…and ready access to M&S and Waitrose, I am more than happy to leave my London living days in the past. More greenery and a whole lot less rent are my criteria for our next move!
Becoming an Auntie
Just 15 days before I left for China, my nephew was born! Having last seen him in real-life when he was a tiny, tiny human of just 10 days old I have spent the last year watching him grow up on FaceTime. I’ll next be seeing him almost a year after I said my goodbyes and I cannot wait. It remains to be seen how he will feel about the realisation that there are two copies of his Mum – identical twin Auntie could well be amazing or utterly terrifying!
Beijing Culture Shock
Our first taste of China was Beijing. Although it was only 10 months a go, it feels like a lifetime since we were deposited in a freezing Beijing Hutong by a very irate taxi driver, overwhelmed, jetlagged and realising that we should really have learnt some Mandarin before we departed the UK. Although we had a great time exploring the city and the Great Wall it’s fair to say that we were both pretty dazed by the culture shock and madness of Chinese New Year tourism. So much so, that it almost feels like it was all just a surreal dream when I look back on it now. I would definitely love to go back one day when it’s both warmer and a whole lot less terrifying! Plus I’ve never quite got over the guilt that I spent the day we should have been at the must-see Summer Palace fast asleep instead.
New Home, New Job, New Lifestyle
Within a fortnight of landing in China we were in Chengdu, had a flat and were well on the way to getting our first pay cheques as demo classes and job offers rolled in. In a country as fond of paperwork, hoops to jump through and general disorganisation as China, it’s amazing that settling in happened so quickly!
As I wrote about in this post, it didn’t take long for Chengdu to feel like home, perhaps aided by the fact that we swapped our 9-5 working weeks for roughly 12 hours a week in total! These days we’re working significantly more but still have more free time than we could have dreamt of in London. Safe to say, it’s going to one heck of a shock to the system when we come back to full time studies (me) and full time jobs (Joe) next summer!
Walking. Lots of Walking
With the urban setting of London not providing much opportunity for hiking or hill walking, I was most excited about getting the walking boots on and hitting some mountain trails in China. Admittedly, recent months have not seen much countryside or hiking but the spring and summer months saw me do more walking than over the previous 6 years combined.
Forever grossly over-estimating my own fitness levels and indeed enthusiasm for outdoor pursuits, we first tackled Emei Shan just a couple of hours by train from Chengdu. Ignoring all advice to make maximum use of public transport and instead subjecting ourselves to hours upon hours of stairs, it was a beautiful but exhausting trip and involved a lot more concrete steps than I am used to in the hills! Therefore when the opportunity to truly get off the beaten track was offered I couldn’t resist and we found ourselves spending 6 days and 5 nights trekking around Gongga Shan on Western Sichuan’s Tibetan Plateau. Having already written about this trip extensively I won’t ramble on about it but it is without a doubt one of the hardest yet best things I have ever done. And taught me that you should never, ever stray from Skippy peanut butter.
Unexpected Malaysian Trips
Having experienced immense amounts of visa-related angst before we even left the UK it was somewhat inevitable that it was all going to go horribly wrong as our first visa expiration date approached. And go very wrong it did! Having learnt a harsh lesson that you should never, ever book flights before your passport has been adorned with your next visa, we unexpectedly found ourselves heading to Kuala Lumpur for a 2 and half-week holiday this summer!
After initially shedding some very stressed tears about the logistics of it all, this break was actually just what was needed. 16 glorious days of decompressing after several months in China, enjoying easily available Western food and drinking way too much delicious white wine. Cheers Pa!
A city that’s always been on my travel-list I was pretty delighted that a ‘mandatory’ trip to Hong Kong was required over the summer in order for me to finally secure my work visa. With visa paperwork taking a refreshingly short amount of time we had several days free to explore the city.
Cramped, boiling and always busy, Hong Kong still managed to be one of the best cities I have ever visited. We ate budget food until we wanted to explode, wandered around the steep streets at our leisure and even had an unexpected catch up with an old UK pal!
Christmas Season in China
Even though Christmas isn’t celebrated in China, it turns out foreigners are still required to judge a children’s English-speaking Christmas themed talent show. Of course they are.
Officially one of the maddest things I have taken part in since being in China, watching an endless stream of children perform Christmas carols, plays and dance routines was probably the weirdest way I will ever spend Boxing Day. Having dreaded it from the moment I was signed up as a judge, it was actually pretty hilarious and if nothing else, the interpretative belly dance to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’, as performed by one of the Chinese teachers makes for one of my best China-tales yet.
As 2015 comes to a close, it’s both sad and exciting that we are now on the China home-straight, with only 6 short months remaining before we pack up once again and start our move home – hopefully via a couple of exciting destinations before we officially land back in Blighty. Writing this list of ‘2015 highlights’ it’s been great to remember just how much we have squeezed in to our time out here so far. Naturally, as we enter 2016 I have a long list of trips to make, things to see and places to eat that all need to be ticked off before our time in China comes to an end. Definitely a lot more fun than my usual New Years Resolutions!
Happy New Year everyone. I hope your 2015 has been just as wonderful!