It’s come to the time when I have to pack (my least favourite pastime) to return to Beijing for my second term at Peking University. It’s been lovely to be back In Guernsey and England with family and friends for such a long time, and I’ve made the most of the time by getting in some legal work experience, a football match for Trevs women, and of course a Durham formal! I also celebrated my 21st birthday with a wonderfully surprise-filled weekend, but I think that it deserves an entire blog post to itself, so look out for that. Whilst it feels odd to be leaving normality to return to the intensity and craziness of China, I’m super excited to see friends out there and eat all the kung-pow prawns. The below is basically a summary of my thoughts about going back:
I am so excited to return to all the rice! A lot of people ask me if I ever tire of Chinese food, but I actually really enjoy it – there is so much choice from spicy Sichuanese to delicious Cantonese, so it’s difficult to be bored. After my two food-poisoning bouts in December I’m a little nervous about eating in the canteen again, but it would be a shame to ignore it altogether so I’m planning to eat out in moderation. I didn’t cook much in the apartment last term because of the abundance of cheap and delicious restaurant food around, but I’m planning to branch out from pesto pasta and really put my Chinese to the test in the supermarkets. I’m also being much more prepared with my supplies of Western chocolates (I have an indecent amount of M&S walnut whips packed to perfection in my suitcase).
I’m less excited about returning to the smog of Beijing. It’s been so nice to be back where one can play sport outside, and even walk from building to building without donning a sexy 3M pollution mask. However, I’m determined to not let the pollution get in the way of my new exercise regime, so it might have to be a case of making the most of the clear days, and resigning myself to staying inside throughout the bad ones. I suppose there will be no excuse on the beautiful clear sunny days (of which I hope there will be many). This leads me onto another positive…
The worst of the bitter Beijing winter is over, and it’s only going to get warmer from here on in. Gone will be the 5+ layers and out will come the happy trousers reserved for sun and warm weather. When we arrived in Beijing in September, it was shorts and t-shirt weather – which seemed unbelievable in December when anything above minus was a good day when we were cycling to university. However, Beijing’s seasonal weather has made packing more tricky as I will be making a grave mistake if I don’t take back any winter clothes for March and yet the thought of summer is so worth it! Beijing is filled with beautiful parks, so I anticipate revising my characters while maybe even working on my tan.
Chinese toilets deserve their reputation. China has conditioned me to take tissues everywhere and to never, ever flush loo roll, and it’s taken me a really long time to get used to being back in the British Isles, a place that solely uses Western toilets with complementary toilet paper, and plumbing heavy-duty enough to take it being flushed. One of the most exciting aspects of my Japan trip in November was the discovery of high-tech and blissfully clean Japanese toilets. I was too scared to try out all the gadgets for fear of their unknown power and uses, but it was a lovely hiatus from China-toilet living. But now I’m back to the joys of Chinese public “toilets”…
Sightseeing and travelling
Finally, I’m really looking forward to the opportunities to travel and explore more of this diverse country and continent. Last term saw me travel to Xi’an, Tianjin and Shanghai, and this term I’d love to fit in a trip to Taiwan and Guilin (this is the part of China with the beautiful green-mountain lined rivers). Sichuan is also high on the list for the food and colours. This term should be less intense than the first term as we are sorted for education and housing, so it would also be nice to explore Beijing further – I anticipate doing the touristy things with my family when they visit in April! Another trip to Japan is on the cards, and it would be great to get down to Hong Kong if the opportunity arose. I should start saving up!