Published in Asia! Magazine - August 2006
Travelling carries with it the curse of being at home everywhere and yet nowhere, for wherever one is some part of oneself remains on another continent.
– Margot Fonteyn
My daughter came home from kindy, took one look at the apartment and proclaimed, “It’s so clean!” At only two years old she often struggles with the correct words, as I still even do in my rapidly advancing middle-aged, or as I prefer to call them, ‘pre-senility’ years. What she had really wanted to communicate was, “It’s so empty!” The removalists (motto: you point at it, we break it) had just expunged our home of our last goods and chattels, apart from those things that either did not fit or could not even be given away. We were preparing to farewell China , our home of nearly six years – although it had, on numerous occasions, seemed much longer than that.
Like millions of expats around the world there comes, for a myriad of reasons, a time to leave – and so it was for us. For some it is the end of a contract and they depart begrudgingly. Others are waving their airline tickets at the check-in counter on the first flight out with concurrent signs of both relief and madness etched upon their faces. A former colleague had to leave the Middle East after his house was bombed. Yet another snuck out in the middle of the night to escape a bad marriage to a local. One was even secreted to the port to escape a jealous knife-wielding husband.
In France in the late 1800’s there appeared a peculiarly localised illness that only lasted a few years. Young men would disappear from Paris and turn up quite a few weeks later in Moscow , completely unable to explain how they got there. Our moves have been somewhat more calculated and, at most times, we’ve generally been aware of what was happening in our particular dimension. For us we had come to improve our lifestyle – but working six or seven days a week is not a change for the better, despite whatever spin management may put on it.
We will miss our good friendships, cheap drunken nights at the local Japanese restaurant, taxi rides for a song, the history all around, the local repairman who ‘fixed’ my bike with a smile and a big hammer, plus a plethora of low-cost goods churned out by the local smoke-belching factories stocked with cheap labour. We will not miss, however, great crowds of the unwashed masses, the insane traffic, the brown soupy skies, phlegm spotted footpaths, nor the fact I seemed to be the only person in a city of millions without a mobile phone. No longer will I maybe be elbowed in the groin by a feisty octogenarian as I try to board a bus, train or airplane.
Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom has been very good to us. We arrived with three suitcases and depart with a container plus a healthy bank account (for us). But we can safely say, “Our time here is done” (© Dr. Spock, Star Trek) and it’s truly the right moment to jump off the fiery red dragon of Chinese economic madness. One door is closed, another is opened, and a new adventure begins.
Till next month, as we look for somewhere to live…
This article is part of a series relating to our lives abroad. For more articles click here
© 1992-2006, Nicholas Klar, PO Box 280, Brighton SA 5048, AUSTRALIA
May be reproduced for personal use only. Any reproduction in print or in any fixed or for-profit medium is not allowed without written permission. If any of these pages are copied, downloaded or printed the copyright statement must remain attached.
Any use of this or other works for academic and/or other research must be duly acknowledged by bibliography or reference.
REF: Nicholas Klar, article name, http://klarbooks.com/academic/weblink reference, date accessed