25 March 2018

My Wuhan Withdrawal...

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!

Arriving into Hankou Railway Station from Suzhou at the beginning of July 2015, I was fronted with a furnace like summer heat as I made my first bewildering impressions of Wuhan. The first two months saw me working at an English Language Training Center, that first transition catapulted me into another kind of teaching style, as for the company I am still with them today in Beijing. I can still remember the crazy pace of Optics Valley Square, a sea of construction that my apartment building overlooked, it was all new to me and with so much happening during those first three months it resonates during this time in Beijing, in different ways I am still learning and embracing epic change. My current location is silent compared to the energy of Guanggu, that's been a challenge yet a blessing in two senses. I loved Guanggu's convenient location, transport links were a plenty, it's a contrast between now! Oh!

Hot and dry noodles used to be my breakfast along with a few other street stop favourites, even though Guanggu irritated me at times to levels I can't bare to think of, it gave me an array of street food vendors. Shunyi is silent, sparse with food vendors that call the street their workplace but its 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 for a reason and it took a lot of thought to leave a school that I had worked through the ranks and earned the respect I had from the management. I feel a reverse shock, its going to take awhile to get used to, but 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, but that Wuhan area needed time, we both need time before that reunion! Guanggu Square had me crazy with the crowds but it became normal. 

It's no secret that professional development motivated my move from Wuhan to Beijing, having spent two academic years at my first kindergarten teaching position it was a monumental decision to not renew my contract, rather to transfer to the country's capital city. The children were sweet and made me smile, although many challenges faced with language and daily working life, regardless I got through whatever situation I was given, its strength like that I really need now. How the commute changed my life, well it makes my current twenty minute walk feel 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, its just human nature keeping in-touch. 

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 my 'China Bestie' Fiona during the first Christmas work social from our 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' in Beijing because Fiona is irreplaceable but my new 'Beijing Bestie' came into my life and he's so far shown me some of the nighttime delights in the big city! One complicated face still plays on my heart and a tearful goodbye later still hurts my heart. Beijing, show me the way?

My time in Beijing so far has been predominately taken up by work, planning and other business as my responsiblities 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 so that comes handy when I have looked lost, but only on the rarest of ocassions. I think these feelings of withrdrawal are normal, its been a major adjustment! I loved the Yangzte River's view!

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. Me 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? So, Wuhan was the beginning and Beijing is the present, but who knows the future?

Oh Wuhan! 

Joseph Harrison 

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