Updated:1331692195Source:GZ Morning Post
When one dream fades, another is waiting to take its place.
To be honest I didn’t have a dream when I arrived to live in China for the second time. At least I didn’t feel I had one. It was a matter of practicalities. One year at home in England without work, in a country not only in the economic doldrums but also coming to terms with the devastating city riots of 2011 was enough to propel me back to China. So if there was a dream it was about teaching again and being cheerily greeted by hundreds of smiling faces every day. I had missed that a great deal.
My China dream begun in 2007 when I first came to China to get married and start a life in this intriguing country. I was filled with excitement and my eyes were popping at all the new sights, but once the practicalities of life began to get a grip and I realized just how much I was an alien in a faraway land, the freshness and excitement quickly began to fade. Until one has lived in another country for some while, this experience cannot be understood.
My wife’s hometown was Zunyi in Guizhou province and that’s where we made a home and where I later began my English teaching career. It was, however, a difficult place for me to settle. I didn’t speak Chinese and no one else around us spoke English. There was only a handful of foreigners in the city and I felt very isolated. My wife spoke good English but until I started teaching, my only conversations were with her. It was a struggle and this put a strain on our relationship and, sadly, after a couple of years we separated; the cultural differences between us also contributed to our separation. After my contract with my school finished, I packed my bags and headed for home, thinking I would probably never return to China again.
My China dream had been shattered, in more ways than one and now I would have to start over again in the UK. But life doesn’t always go to plan and after one year in the UK, I decided to go back to China again; with all its inherent difficulties and frustrations this was a much better prospect than being unemployed at home. I had made many friends in Zunyi and their warmth and kindness were an abiding memory and a magnet to draw me back.
Once the decision was made it felt like the right one and when my visa was obtained, the excitement started to grow once more. However, I never planned to come to Guangzhou but I was in the hands of an agency. I wanted to live in a smaller city where the countryside was close at hand. My hometown of Deal in Kent in South Britain has a population of less than 40,000, so the prospect of living in a mega city like Guangzhou was not one I relished. However, ten days after arriving in Beijing, I found myself boarding a train for the twenty-one hour journey to Guangzhou. What was I letting myself in for?
I had been dreading the train journey; coming from a country where a five hour trip is considered long, but it turned out to be fine and I quite enjoyed the enforced rest. My anxieties about an unknown city and an unknown school were soon laid to rest too. As soon as possible I got myself a map and at the first opportunity I experienced the Metro system, which is so great, and heading for Yuexiu Park was like walking into a favorite relative’s home, so warm and welcoming, even though of course no one spoke to me. But they didn’t need to; the park was alive with people singing, exercising, dancing and playing music. I was able to feel the thriving energy of people enjoying the park; their enjoyment was my enjoyment.
The following weekend I was exploring Liuhuahu Park, then Luhu Park, followed by Martyr’s Park, Liwanhu Park, Seventy-two Martyrs’ Park and People’s Park. The parks give me (a countryside person) the greatest satisfaction being in a big city and they are the places where one can experience real Chinese culture. Each one is a joy, with its own character and charms. It is the parks of the city that make Guangzhou so special and distinct. The city is not just a great anonymous mass of buildings, traffic and hurrying people but a place where people know how to enjoy themselves in the company of others and appreciate being out of doors and close to nature. I couldn’t have dreamt of such places in such a big modern city beforehand.
So now I have new dreams but these are a story for another day.
(By Geof Warren)
The story above is contributed by our media partner GZ Morning Post.
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