There's Something About... Wuhan, China!

Leaving Wuhan wasn't a difficult choice but here in my new China life, I do feel certain pangs for that Hubei provincial city. Living in that city for two years certainly made an impression on my soul, it was character building to say the very least but I wouldn't have changed one thing! Beijing is bigger but it's early days. Did I underestimate the enormity of this transition? Yes, W!

Arriving into Hankou Railway Station from Jiangsu's Suzhou Railway Station at the beginning of July 2015, I was fronted with a furnace like Summer heat as I made my first bewildering impressions of China's Wuhan. The first two months saw me working at an English Language Training Center, unknowingly that original employer was not the one for me! Of course, I can still remember the crazy pace of Optics Valley Square, it was a sea of construction that my apartment building overlooked. Everything was new to me and with all of that happening during those first three months, that energy of newness resonates during this time in Beijing. In a different way, I am still learning and embracing this epic change. My current location is silent compared to the energy of Guanggu, that's been a challenge yet a blessing in both senses. I loved Guanggu's convenient location, transport links were a plenty, it's a contrast because my current Shunyi life has me walking a lot more! Forever, Optics Valley will always be in my heart, 武汉市! 

Hot & Dry Noodles became my everyday breakfast along with a few other street stop favourites. Even though Guanggu irritated me at times because of the pandemonium, I had an array of street food vendors to choose from. Shunyi is silent and very sparse with food vendors that call the street their workplace, but it has made me look back and appreciate that smaller city vibe. Difference sets these places apart and I'm not yearning for those things that I had before because I left Wuhan. Absolutely, it took a lot of thought for me to leave a school that I had worked through the ranks and earned the respect I had gained from the management. I feel a reverse shock, it's going to take awhile to get used to this life. Wuhan's street food scene will be back in my life during a holiday weekend for sure! Guanggu is tarting itself up right now, we made a pact to see each other again! That Wuhan area needed time, in-fact we both need time before that reunion! Guanggu Square had me crazy with the crowds but it became a new normal. 我好想你! 

No, it's no secret that professional development motivated my move from Wuhan to Beijing, having spent two academic years at my first Kindergarten, I made the decision to change locations. Being in that teaching position, it was a monumental decision for me to not renew my contract! I had made my choice, I had made my commitment to Beijing City! The children that I taught in Wuhan were sweet and made me smile everyday! Although many challenges faced me with language and daily working life, I got through whatever situation I had to face. That strength has been something that I've really needed in Beijing. How the commute changed my life, well it makes my current twenty minute walk feels like paradise compared to that Upper Optics Valley bus commute! The days were long but it was all worth it, for the first year I was my own team then the second year brought the decision to change regions, that community and school will always be in my heart. I am still in contact with a select few of the parents, that's life! 

Like the children I made meaningful connections of a different kind in my personal life, from the very beginning of my time in Wuhan right till the moment my train departed for my Shanghai flight, a series of indescribable feelings will always take me back to Wuhan. I met Fiona during the first Christmas work social from our teaching agency, our paths didn't cross again till the following February during the Spring Festival holiday. Fiona and I became the best of friends during that Wuhan time, we were there for each other through all the madness, it was a complete mind mess to live in that Hubei provincial city at times but looking back it was the making of many memories! I don't need another 'China Bestie', I'll mention more about Fiona in due course. You know what, I have already mentioned her and I will do so again if I want to! Sure, friends made it for me during the weekend but my Kindergarten was the only place for me to be during the week in Wuhan! Optics Valley of China, you got me feeling some type of way! 

My time in Beijing so far has been predominately taken up by work, planning and other business as my responsibilities have increased. I have found myself in the city a few times but it does make me think of those sightseeing moments in Wuhan, that developing city showed me many sights during my first year in China and more still throughout the second. Catching Line 2 of the Wuhan Metro became like second nature to me, the crowds and the chaos turned into a normal thing for me to deal with, I'm not yearning for that back but they are memories I won't forget nor would I ever want to forget! It's actually been a step up in Beijing, the transport is more synchronised and the locals sometimes speak more English than in Wuhan, in the richer areas anyway! Nothing will ever beat those days spent alongside the Yangtze River Park in Wuhan's Hankou District. I made the best of my time sightseeing and then some, but being beside the river made everything feel right. There's something about Wuhan, one thing was the Yangtze! 

Never did I envisage such a spicy beginning to my time in Wuhan, the first year was like no other experience that I had ever encountered. Moving into my second year, I thought I'd gotten everything figure, was that really the case thought? I knew what I wanted, I knew what I liked but nothing could have prepared me for what happened in September of 2016! I had my socials, but one APP delivered that something 'extra' when the need called for it, that social platform was about surprise me in Wuhan! His name was Chen and that was all that I got from our messages, we met for a lovely bit of barbecue near Zhongnan Road. In that moment I felt butterflies, I felt drunk on presence and I wasn't mad about that at all. Wuhan didn't prepare for the man that had a hold on my heart in the most peculiar of ways. We weren't together for a fantastic amount of time but he cropped up in my life every now and then, it was becoming apparent I couldn't say no! He is now just a memory, but a delicious that will stay, I don't do love but hey! Wuhan, stop! 

The Yellow Crane Tower and Baotong Temple sure impressed me much but it was those moments that have feelings attached to them that I miss the most! Even simple things like that first bubble tea with one of those special souls might have seemed insignificant at the time but in the here and now I appreciate them ten fold. I sound like a broken record, I really do! Yes, I'm in my feelings about Wuhan right now! That counts for something, right? I lived for those days out and those nights in and the other way round because that was my life from 2015 to 2017. I cannot change what has happened in Beijing up until this moment because I wouldn't want to do that! Baotong Temple first had me lost in 2015 but during the same year I found myself back at that temple. I had a dear connection with me, that person helped when I needed it and we also spend some amazing times together. One day was at that Wuchang place of worship, it was special! Yes, the Yellow Crane Tower gave me my first views of the Yangzte '长江' River! Oh, W! 

Through the teaching agency it wasn't all about work for me, I found Fiona and she found me! She might be a Rangers supporter but she's my Helensburgh pal, we helped each other get through that collective second year in China! Myself and Fiona made it into the city countless times during our weekends off, we dined, shopped and got disorderly and didn't care what the basics did with their reductive lives in Wuhan. Those memories won't leave me, Wuhan showed me a lot during those two years and right here things are tough, I know in my heart of hearts I did the right thing and I know I need to ride this storm out because the Beijing blue skies will reveal a smooth forecast for my future here. I will get back to Wuhan soon enough, I'm not sure how it will feel or if the change will shock me or will impress me? Wuhan allowed me to start my China experience, it allowed me to make those first China memories and mistakes. When will I be returning to Wuhan? Only Wuhan knows the answer to that question! It hasn't been a year! 

Oh Wuhan! 

Joseph Harrison 


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