It looks like I’m leaving China, well for a while at least, but before you start moaning and groaning, this isn’t going to be another one of those “goodbye China” letters we’ve all love to hate. After all, I’ll only be leaving for a year at most, so it’s not really goodbye. It’s more like a zaijian letter. Or more of a mingnian jian letter, and I personally have never read one of those before. And there I go trying, not so successfully, to be original once more. Typically, I hate to admit to being typical. I’ve got tons of questions before I make the longer than a normal vacation visit back to the homeland because I’ve never lived there for any decent period of time since becoming an adult. I’ve never rented an apartment back home. I’ve never filed for taxes (arrest me now) nor have I ever had a “real” job, so though most questions can be answered by looking them up on the Internet, it is very rare that I can find anybody who has been in my position. Needless to write, I’m a little bit nervous. A long time ago, I always pictured myself, after having been on so many adventures, as being the one at the head of the table telling tales to those dining with me. You know what I mean? The dude who knows how to tell the right joke at the appropriate time? The guy who can add an anecdote to go along with any topic? The scholar who passes on ancient wisdom? The man who can tackle any obstacle because he’s seen it all?
In the end, that’s not me, so I’m nervous. I’m much quieter than I used to be as well. Somebody even mistook me as being full of thought the other day. Ha! Me? Full of thought? I care to differ. After all of these years, I’ve turned out much differently from that person I once dreamt of becoming. But hey, at the end of the day, at least I’m able to appreciate things like white puffy pillow clouds in the sky, reasonably priced avocados, and being able to drive all alone down a country road. I still love China, with its strict education system that forces my daughter to bury her head in the books. I terribly enjoy the challenges I face linguistically on a daily basis, and I am giddy when making my way through the throngs of people on holidays. Eating and drinking around a big table of ten while making fun of each other is one of my favorite pastimes. I will surely miss many things from the place I’ve called home for so many years, but as Arnold said, “I’ll be back.” I know, I know. How many times have you heard that one before from people who eventually just become distant Facebook “friends?” Then why leave, if I’ll be back? To make a very long story, very short – circumstance. Okay, it’s because my wife got an offer to be a visiting scholar at a university in the U.S. So, I’m off to drive down that backwater lane looking up at the sky while eating my guacamole, maybe with a passenger or two who might be interested in hearing a story.
By Tim Hoerle