Hey to those of you reading!
As you can see, my last post was an entire month ago – my little trip to Monkey Mountain and since that day things went rapidly downhill.
I woke up that Tuesday morning feel absolutely exhausted. Not from the hike, but from another day in China. I woke up crying, my neighbours were making a ridiculous amount of noise and there were firecrackers going off right outside my door. I was mentally drained and I could feel myself spirally into that oh-so-familiar feeling of depression.
It was that morning when I realised that my time in Lianyungang wasn’t going to get much better.
The city certainly wasn’t about to change, a wave of new foreigners wasn’t coming and the food most definitely wasn’t going to improve (although I must admit I did enjoy being extremely skinny for a while!). I was working FOUR HOURS PER WEEK!! I was going stir crazy and I was never able to relax and enjoy my free time because everywhere was so noisy.
Personally, I think that anyone who’s ever experienced mental health issues knows how vital it is to keep yourself as far away from relapsing as possible. On that part, I was failing massively.
Anyway, By 8am I was out of the flat. Walking around the city. I decided to check out the third mall, the one which no one seemed to know about, and it was pretty good. There were so many different clothes stalls, another cinema and the supermarket was definitely better than any other I’d been to. Yet even walking around there I felt angry, bitter and completely lost. I blasted my music through my headphones, trying to ignore reality and as I walked down the wine aisle, all I could think was, ‘is it too early to start drinking?’ to which the answer was, ‘yes Claire. It’s 10:30am.’
I was trying to talk everything through with my mum and I know her and my dad wanted me to stick it out in China, and I tried. I tried to convince myself that I could. So I walked through the park, tried to appreciate the open space and the spring flowers, but even that was ruined by someone trying to follow me with a camera, people pointing at the ‘white person’… it wasn’t helping at all. I went to Suning mall and tried on loads of things in H&M, I loved them all but didn’t buy a thing. Here’s a few things I tried on:
Eventually I walked back home, desperate to sleep after only having 3 hours in the night (yet again!) but to absolutely no surprise the kids were running in the hallway and the people upstairs were starting World War Three, so no, sleep wasn’t happening.
It was then I finally decided I wasn’t going to be staying in LYG much longer, and began to craft my resignation letter. I had decided that if I worked my 30 days notice that would give me enough time to figure out if I wanted to stay in China, move back home or try a different country like Vietnam or Korea. 30 days gave me enough time to sort out a new plan, say goodbye to my new friends and still have time to travel to places like Nanjing and Beijing on my days off.
Wrong Claire. Wrong.
It took my EXboss nearly 8 hours to respond to the email, to which he suggested that I ‘should go home for a week’ and then decide if I want to resign or come back. He also said that whatever decision I made would be met with no hard feelings, no issues or complications. Honestly, I believed he was trying to be nice.
WRONG AGAIN CLAIRE!!
After agreeing to this option (that I’d go home for a week then decide if I want to return to the job) I was promptly removed from all teaching groups (there were about 8 or 9).
I knew straightaway something was up. I just had that gut instinct that something was going to go wrong from here on out. I told my mum what was going on, that I didn’t feel right about this and because she had to go to work, I did what I did best in China, I went out drinking.
With a huge group of people, we had a fantastic night. We chilled out at the local wine bar, swapping stories of travelling around China, learning Chinese, stories from home. It was brilliant. Followed by a 2am trip to McDonalds before heading home to bed.
Wednesday morning I awoke to numerous messages saying that my exboss ‘accepted’ my resignation, even though 24 hours earlier, he asked me to retract it. Red flag. I needed to sort out the ‘IOU’ as soon as possible. The agreement with the loan was that I would pay it back from my salary, but that changed pretty quickly. Another red flag. I was told my duties were suspended immediately – even though I had a class that afternoon – and that I was to pack up all of my belongings and leave without telling anyone. (Sorry, what?!) My gut instinct was right and I started looking for flights home straight away.
I was starting to pack and tidy up, in between messaging my friend who was deciding whether or not to go away for a few days, when I realized I probably wasn’t coming back to China anytime soon. To my surprise, and sheer happiness, he said he was going to stay in the city and we were going to hang out for the day! (Not going to lie, this made me cry.) Both hungover and pretty hungry, we decided to go for pizza downtown. Excellent decision as well. We thought a few drinks in the park might be a good idea and after picking up some beers, quickly headed back to my flat to pick up a jumper and a coat, have a quick power nap (not together, may I add) and I had a speedy packing session.
We wandered around the city, looking at funny building signs, watched a strange protest where half the city seemed to be running down the road with banners and loudspeakers, sat on a wall with our beers (so English!) and then went to my favourite place for dinner, the Buddhist restaurant! Even as I’m writing this, I really miss that place…
Still in a bit of a panic about the whole situation, I called my Dad and asked him to book me the first available flight and good ol’ Dad came to the rescue as he often does, I had a flight for the Friday morning within the hour!
Which meant I was really leaving. So we met up with another friend at the wine bar and we had a few beers, planning for an extremely chilled night as we were going to wait for the Champions League match at 3am. We played stupid drawing games, ate junk food, talked rubbish, ran out to buy more beer and junk food and by the time 3am rolled around we only managed to watch the first half before falling asleep.
Thursday morning, hungover and without much sleep, we wandered down to Starbucks for breakfast and a bit of last minute shopping. It was good fun but I already started feeling sad. Plus, when do guys ever willingly go shopping with you? Goodbyes suck. Especially that one.
I bought some amazing cherry / chocolate cake to share with my friend back at my flat, she was helping me with some last minute things over coffee and cake. Another moment when I genuinely started feeling sad, but at the same time glad I met yet another lovely person.
I whirlwind-style packed everything, cleaned as much as possible, although when I moved in the flat was absolutely filthy to the point I had to go out that night and buy cleaning products. Another friend came over to help me with my bags, thank god – I couldn’t have done that by myself! and it took over half an hour to get a taxi in the pouring rain.
Despite all of the negatives in those 5 weeks in China, my final moments came down to me saying ‘see you soon’ with tears in my eyes. This was not how my time in China was supposed to end. I had a strong feeling that I wouldn’t be coming back. Someone was making sure of that.
The airport was a total zoo, my bags were far too heavy and the taxi driver didn’t even bother to help me out with my 6 bags. It was a nightmare. I was beyond relieved to get on that plane and was asleep before we took off. I woke up stretched out over 3 empty seats just as we were about to land, tears still streaming down my face. Wasn’t this what I wanted?
We landed at the wrong airport in Shanghai, along with about 6 other flights, so the airport was an absolute nightmare, no one to help, it was gone midnight before I arrived at the other airport, 3 hours after I should have done. I sat in Starbucks (thank god it was 24 hours) which once again made me feel sad. I tried to sleep on the floor of the airport and woke up to three fat, bald Chinese guys shouting and pointing at me. I was furious! I suddenly couldn’t wait to leave. The airline wouldn’t refund my taxi costs, even though it was their fault I was at the wrong airport. I was furious again. One final Starbucks before getting the shuttle bus to the next terminal. Again, furious. The first bus driver wouldn’t wait for me to put my bags on the bus so he drove off. The second guy watched me struggle with 6 bags, again. I was just furious beyond belief. Everything was so infuriating. The guy at check-in was wonderful and put me on an earlier flight, ignored my extra 4kg suitcase and wished me a lovely journey. (I could have hugged him!) Hong Kong was just as infuriating as I find their staff so rude and unpleasant, but I found a chair at the end of the terminal and tried to stay calm. I was talking to my friend and once again started crying. Why was I leaving such lovely people? I know why, because people can’t always change the way you feel. People couldn’t change my work situation, or my apartment, or the city. None of that would have changed.
On the plane from Hong Kong I met two really lovely couples, who also didn’t sleep much, and I spent most of the flight talking to them, sharing our travel tales. It was just nice. (I’m sorry, I hate the word nice, but this time it works).
I cannot tell you how happy I was to finally touch down at Heathrow. I cried, again. I fast-walked through the entire airport, check-in, baggage claim, bought myself a massive sandwich, bag of chilli doritos and a dr pepper before dashing off to get the coach.
I missed my friends terribly, but I was finally, finally home.
and yup, I cried again when I finally got home to my mama.
Those five weeks felt like five months.