On my third week in Beijing now. A few more days and it’ll be the longest I’ve stayed in a foreign country. It’s so strange to think about really, how far away from home I am. Flying doesn’t help with that I think, you don’t really comprehend how far you’ve traveled, it’s all sort of a blur of films, sleep and plane food. Even so, here I am 4,928 miles away from home, just a bit further than my usual 268 miles when I’m back at uni… And, of course, with such a distance comes homesickness. I’ve always gotten quite homesick because I tend to spend a lot of time with my parents when I’m home, whether we are just watching movies, going on dog walks or late night chats, I always enjoy spending time with them. I told my mum last night that I was missing her and my dad a lot, her reply was exactly what I needed to pull me out of my little bout of sadness “That’s perfectly understandable. We’re awesome parents. Xx” She always knows how to make me laugh, even if I’m miles and miles away.
Apart from missing my family, I think food is something I’m having to get most used to. We were laughing today because all we could think about was cheesy garlic bread, Sunday roasts, and stodgy takeaway foods. Thinking about said foods made dinner rather disappointing, but at least we know what we can look forward to when we go home in January. I know I’ll be making lots of requests for when I get home. How much veggie lasagna and fish pie can I eat in one sitting you ask? Just wait and see, my friend, wait and see!
Thinking too much on the things you miss though can put you down though, however I like to think about it all now and then to remind myself how grateful I’ll be when I am home again. It makes you reconsider everything you have, and appreciate it more. It’s a kind of perspective that’s hard to get when you’re in the middle of your comfort zone, you need to leave it sometimes to see just how much you have in your life. It makes you glad to be homesick in a way, because at least you have a home worth being homesick over. I thought about this a lot when I was trekking in Vietnam back in 2014. Most nights we would sleep in rural houses on a thin mattress on the floor, (four nights out of the 18 days we slept in a hotel, and trust me we were thankful for it when we did!) I didn’t have my phone or laptop, and there was no chocolate. It was quite the adventure. But I thought a lot about the things I missed and why I missed them. I missed my phone because of what it allowed me to do: contact anyone I cared about at will, where-ever whenever. Not being able to do that meant being even further out of my comfort zone than simply being put in a foreign country. However, it did let me learn a lot about myself and how I cope in challenging situations. Experiences like that make you stronger as a person, they really do.
I’ve written a few letters since I’ve got here, a couple of postcards too. It’s nice to put pen to paper, I don’t really get the chance to when I’m at home or at uni. I like getting my purple pen out, and the pretty writing paper one of my aunties gifted to me before I left, and just going a little old school. There’s something that paper and pen can do that emails just can’t. There’s more sentiment. You can open the envelope knowing that care and thought has been put into every line, in each precise fold and in every mile it has traveled to get to you. Don’t get me wrong, I love the speed of a text or email, but letters just make you feel a bit more special. In many ways it’s an art that’s slowly being forgotten. Just as people move from printed books to kindles, it’s more convenient, but definitely not the same as the feel of paper in your hands.
It may sound obvious, but more and more I’ve noticed it’s just a completely different world here. General etiquette, foods, language, crossing the road, everything. It’s all different here. You end up feeling a strange mixture of excitement about experiencing something so brand new, and a strong homesickness for everything that feels normal and safe. Something one of my lecturers said in film class keeps coming into my head. To paraphrase: we can see and try another walk of life, but we can never truly experience it and understand it, because we know we will be going back to our own normal life at some point. One day we will be back in our own warm beds, and not living as people here will continue to every day. We know we’ll be going home, so all the things that we find difficult, we know won’t be difficult forever, making the overall situation easier. So okay, food here isn’t as much to my taste as food back home, but I know I won’t have to eat it forever, so it’s not so bad. So I may as well suck it up and try something new while I have the opportunity to. So here I am, on the other side of the world, trying to make the most of this crazy year abroad, because I know that sooner than I think I’ll be home again, preparing myself for my final year at university. Soon enough I’ll be thinking about dissertations (who am I kidding, I already have ideas for both of them), and final year modules, and (God forbid) what I’ll be doing after university! (Hopefully a Masters, but hey, one thing at a time.) I know I need to make the best of this, because how often do you get to LIVE in a completely different country for a year! I know at first I was dreading coming, but I am so glad I did. I’m seeing things I didn’t even know existed, learning about cultures from all over the world, and meeting so many amazing people. Yeah, sometimes it’s freaking hard, but it is 100% worth it. And anyway, everything that’s worth something is a bit challenging right?
(Oh yeah, and I went to the Great Wall again! Five years since I last visited it! It was a different section than the last time I went, but it was freaking awesome. You could see for miles! Yeah, Hadrian’s Wall really doesn’t compare…)