Monday, 22 June 2009

Coming Home

Thank you all for your well wishes for my journey home: I had a delightful last weekend in Beijing, a good flight, and since arriving home at about five yesterday evening have enjoyed a takeaway Indian meal with my family, a shopping and lunch trip to Brighton with one of my closest friends and cat adoration, all of which I badly missed in China.

Before I readjust to England, I wanted to record how my hometown, Worthing, looks through ‘China eyes’. On the way home from Heathrow airport, the first thing that struck me was how sedate the motorway traffic was, compared to the honking and weaving and constant near collisions of Shijiazhuang.

Then I noticed how intensely green southern England is at this time of year: it seemed like someone had poured a tin of green paint over the countryside.

And everything is so quiet. When I first moved to Shijiazhuang I thought the noise was going to drive me insane, but I’ve gotten used to the constant honking, the trucks going over speed bumps that rattle my apartment windows, the school bells and announcements, the noise of students, my neighbours banging their doors and yelling at each other on the stairs – and did I mention the honking? Now Worthing seems eerily quiet, the streets too deserted – where is everyone?

Walking to the train station today, the near silence actually started to make me feel quite oppressed and anxious.

I’ve always thought of my town as nothing special, and certainly parts of it are scruffy and, like so many places, it is blighted in spots by ugly brutalist rip buildings and unimaginative apartment buildings. But as I walked down the main street I realised how beautiful some of the buildings are, how blessed the location and how little anyone appreciates what we have here.

Oh, and I’ve had to restrain myself from spitting on the street, smiling at random children, saying ‘xiexie’ instead of ‘thank you’ and putting rejected food on the table in a restaurant.


  1. Welcome home. I love travel and one of the best things about it is arriving home and realising how much i've missed the seemingly mundane.

  2. Hey! Hello J!

    Enjoy your return to England. :-)

  3. You've got a big adjustment coming home! But it's nice to be among the familiar isn't it? Hope so.

  4. Interesting to hear the things that seem so different. Home always looks pretty good to me after travel. I imagine the appreciation is so much greater after being away so long and in such a vastly different place.

  5. Yes, it is so interesting to hear how we look to returning travellers.
    I now have the song in my head that goes:
    It's nice to go travellin' but it's oh so nice, to come home.

    Welcome home.

  6. Welcome home...what a transition you have had.


  7. Interesting take on seeing your old home town through new China eyes.

    My son and his wife will be experienceing a similar "reverse culture shock" when they return home to California in a month after two years in Niger.