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China (or wherever) – to be continued….

I have recently decided to put China in an ‘on [open-ended] hold’, if we can call it that, and head back to Perth to be with family and friends.  I have previously written about my dad, who has brain cancer and whilst he’s still kicking along of course, checking the veggies and occasionally swearing at the TV, I’ve decided I want to be home, especially around Christmas time.

Ebbs and flows are the way of life (if that wasn’t the case, I’d be worried). Even my regular work life has never really been ‘normal’ since I left the safe haven of student life and entered the real world.  I’m not really a drifter, but I am a ‘truster’; that involves testing, seeking, moving, staying, going, unsettling and resettling.  Internal shifts as well as external ones.

I come home with both a spring in my step and a heavy heart, for all kinds of reasons.  I love Shanghai, this paradoxical place.  I feel welcomed, appreciated and included. The language barrier has offered a different way of relating to people and the experience of just sitting with people or doing things together, without the need for space-filling chit-chat. And sometimes, the disappointment and frustration of not feeling connected and being able to have more meaningful conversations (I do love a good chit-chat!).  They go together.

I’ve experienced the odd clichéd ‘loneliness-in-the-crowd’ feeling too, of course; that can be quite strong and overwhelming.  To me it feels like being stuck in an old-fashioned ‘picture reel’ that plays over in your mind in for a few moments, only there are no pictures.   The film is blank, exposed and in that moment I must remind myself that I’m part of this group, this city, this particular place where I’m feeling so out of it and invisible.  I think that just comes with travelling alone, and it passes.

My homecoming naturally leads to thoughts of travel, and what it can offer people.   Countless others have written about the workings and wonders of travel, and some brilliantly so.  Do I always need to be ‘entertained’, reaching for new things and experiences, is that why I love to travel?  Hmm…no, that’s not (entirely) it.   I’m pretty happy in my own company, I can easily spend a day being a homebody and idling few hours pottering around the house.  I need solitude too; I go a bit nuts if I don’t get daydreaming, down time.

Another lovely street in Xintiandi

Another lovely street in Xintiandi

So, here I have been immersed in this world of being the watcher and the watched for three months, living curiosity week-by-week as an end in itself, not a hunt for the answer to absolutely everything.  Though of course, I asked lots of questions!  Can’t help it.  But most of all I think travel teaches patience, acceptance, connectedness, finding beauty in strange places and ‘going with the flow’ like few other life experiences can, in my humble opinion.

And yes, I will probably come home and drive a few people crazy with ‘Oh, this would never happen in Shanghai!’ (apologies in advance everyone, I’ll try to keep that in check!  But complain to me about crowds or queues and I’ll whip out this photo [below]).

86th in the queue, first time ever...

86th in the queue, first time ever…

Oh and in case you’re wondering, I’ll still be writing a post each week – I can still pay attention and be curious at home!  I’ve been a little out of whack lately I know but will get back into the swing of things this week.

Plus there’ll be plenty of goodies from the China archives I’m sure.  Starting to wish I’d taken a photo of that clapped-out old toilet I passed on my street last week 🙂 (ironically, not far away from the fellow who decided to scoot off the footpath and take a quick whizz.  Truly, happens fairly regularly).

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