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Today is my last day in China. I left Wuxi two nights ago and targeted towards Beijing. And here I am, a stone’s throw away from Tiananmen Square, debating on exploring the Forbidden City or Summer Palace, which one is more spectacular?  Which one can end my time here with a bow on top?

My feelings are so mixed about this country. It’s fearless, brash and busting onto the world scene, yet still harbours scars from a very recent past, one that is only alluded to in vague references.

Chinese people don’t waste time on regrets, they let themselves feel it, but rarely linger on them. They just swipe those setbacks clean and continue. I admire this strength, the kind I wish I could conjure.

Yet, I find that I can, otherwise how does one pick up again and leave? One of my goals was to live abroad for a period of time and I did it, accomplished and filed under that to-do life list.

Living here came with joys, discoveries and struggles —  that rich, arching experience that I would have never gotten had I stayed inert in Canada.

To mark my time, a review of the past — these near 2 years I spent in the Land of the Dragon.

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The Ups

1. My first foray into China was during the Ultimate Train Challenge when I rode (at that time) the fastest train in the world!

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2. Discovering the majesty of the Great Wall at Badaling. It is very much worth a visit.

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3. How I saw the most zen and adorable animal ever – pandas!

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4. When I announced my intention to teach in China and all of you supported this nomadic woman standing still for a while.

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5. Immersing myself in local festivals that brought everyday life and cultural celebration right on my lap. There was the Spring Festival, with its tenets of fireworks and predictions for the Lunar Year, or the Lantern Festival that brought traditional lamp making and then spring came with a burst of plum blossoms.

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The Downs

1. Upon learning that my face can confuse the hell out of people in China — and it kinda bummed me out.

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2. That time I was subjected to reverse discrimination and the negative associations that came with it, reminding me of my childhood city, a place both familiar and disconcerting when it came to racism.

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3. That other time Mathilda was stolen outside a busy supermarket. That day was low, a day when I really disliked China.

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4. I found the bravery to reveal what can happen when teaching goes wrong. Not all horrible, but some very real things to consider.

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5. It was very difficult to admit that my experiment in the expat life went awry at the end. I stayed too long and had to face it was time to go. Deep down I had mentally left China months ago and my physical body is now catching up.

Lotus

full-separatorI will miss her quirkiness and indomitable spirit. I won’t miss the shoving or spitting, sorry to say.

China, you tested me, taught me, and showed me the way to myself and now I gaze towards the future, one that may be unknown on many fronts, but shimmering with possibility. This is what change can do.

It’s so befitting that I first arrived to China by their famous railway system and left the same way — between the brightest points of Shanghai and Beijing. Soon I will board a jet plane towards the Women in Travel Summit and I’m already beginning to feel the anchors lifting. It never felt so good to go before.

This is it. Goodbye.

But it’s never really goodbye, is it?