So today marks 7 months since I took that fateful journey up to Heathrow, listening to Alexei Sale’s Imaginary Sandwich bar on Radio 4 in-order to chase away the quiet fact that I’d be trading in my whole life to work abroad in Guangzhou, China.
The night before, we’d gone for a farewell blowout of Fish and Chips, a beer: washed down with the last sights of the sea. It felt like it had been months of awkward goodbyes. I had spent weekends in Bristol and London, just getting as much culture as possible: Seeing theatre shows, dining out and generally trying to get a feel for the cities of Britain that had always seemed underappretiated.
Since then, I’ve grown as a person dramatically in that I’ve been able to learn how to communicate with children and hopefully teach them in a fun and engaging way. Living in a metropolis, I’ve been trying to pick up the language, try the local food (Still not keen on Congee) and develop a sense of home.
I’ve visited Beijing to dine on Catfish and roamed the gothic streets of Nanluoguxiang. Those streets were full of secret nooks and crannies, though I doubt that I could live with the ever present ‘fog’ that greeted me every morning…
Guangzhou is far more traditional than Beijing, though the smog is lighter and I’ve found local places that many a food critic would covet: Toriken: a wonderful oak paneled Japanese restaurant, a world renowned hotel chain which I haunt like Jack Torrance and even a place to buy Tomato Juice.
It’s no surprise that in 2018: Michelin are coming to review Guangzhou. Back home, I’ve gotten gigs reviewing restaurants, guided by my departed hero AA Gill. Something I’d love to continue in Guangzhou.
Christmas was a mild affair: two beers and Harry Potter: all the while pondering on various aspects of the Wizarding World. It’s sometimes the hardest part of expat life: On Christmas day; you trade in a celebratory meal: with everyone at their most hedonistic for a typical Sunday night.
Next on the agenda is a Chinese New Year trip to Thailand, not only to sample the delights of Raan Jay Fai. But to connect with a deeply religious and spiritual culture that probably has me at my most soppy and believe it or not: my most pretentious…Not only is the cuisine of Thailand one of the greatest in the world; but it should also be included as one of the greatest countries for people watching, and generally being a flâneur.
I’ve now spent more time in China than I’ve spent in Nigeria working with Voluntary Service Overseas. Where I often find myself nodding in the direction of many an expat who has visited a bathroom and found they feel a lot dirtier coming out of it.
Being an expat is just as challenging sometimes as being a teacher: but let’s make 2018 a feast of experiences just like the Great Hall dinner featured in Harry…oh you’ve got me back on about the Wizards…Well anyway; Happy New Year from a Wizard abroad…I’ll be likely blogging about Thailand frantically; trying to capture my time off; See you soon…Muggles!