China, I think I miss you.

I left China about four and a half years ago. And while four and a half years sounds like the briefest of moments, it feels like a lifetime ago.

 

When I left Shanghai, I was ready to go. I was fed up with all the usual things that Westerners complain about: the pushing, the spitting, the aggressiveness, the bureaucracy, the pollution.  After three years of living there, the unrelenting pace of Shanghai life had frayed my edges, and it was time to go.

 

But it wasn’t long before I started to get pangs of nostalgia. And now, four and a half years out, I really miss China.  A few days ago, I tucked into a bowl of hot and sour soup with a side of plain white rice, and felt a warm, familiar comfort. And all week, I’ve been noticing China weave it’s way in and out of my conversations. This country has stuck with me in a way that my other

 

These days, I devour books on China, and dream about heading back for a visit. Perhaps China Tours 2014 is in my future? Shall we make Baby Boy’s first foray into international travel?

 

Apartment blocks all lit up. 

I loved driving down the freeway at night when the roads were clear, passing by massive buildings glittering in the night. It was a reminder of life going on at all hours, of the great vastness of the country, and smallness of each one of us.

 

Neon Highways

Flyovers glowing purple and blue. Bridges lit like Christmas trees. Driving around with my iPod turned up loud. 

 

 

Food Culture

Of course. Everyone misses Chinese food. And it is delicious, yes. And I’d about kill for a good bowl of dan dan noodles. But what is greater is the respect that food gets in China; it’s importance in culture. The food scene in Shanghai is wonderful. You can have an outstanding meal, be it Chinese, French, Japanese, or Indian. And that’s more than I can say about most countries in which I’ve lived.

 

 

Diversity 

Who knew that China had so many different ethnic groups? We think of China as a sort of monolithic, homogeneous entity. And that’s not really the case. There are about a billion languages spoken in the country. There are faces that look “Chinese” and faces that look almost Caucasian; culinary traditions with a South-East Asian flavour along side kitchens that feel almost Middle Eastern. From the semi-tropical South West to the arid deserts of the North, there’s just so much more to China than we think!

 

Xinjiang Food

Food again! But seriously, you guys. Xinjiang food deserves it’s own category. Each morning on the way to work, I walked past street stall selling flat-breads baked in make-shift tandoor-like ovens. And there is nothing better to warm cold hands than hot flat bread. And can we talk about barbecued mutton? Hand stretched noodles (I used to sit at my desk and watch a guy pull noodles across the street)? Rice with mutton and dried fruit? Long evenings dining on tables covered with bin bags fuelled by Xinjiang black beer? 

 

Public Transportation

China knows how to move people. Sure, there are lots of problems with their public transport systems, I’m well aware of them. But let me tell you, after a year in Jakarta the efficiency of the Shanghai Subway system is a true marvel. When I moved tho Shanghai, there were two subway lines. When I left, three years alter, there were 12. And lets be real: if you compared the Shanghai Subway System to that of Toronto, or even New York, Shanghers would come out on top.

 

The Art Scene

There are amazing things happening in China with regards to art and design. Beautiful, innovative housewares, for example, are coming out of that country that embrace modern design while still harkening back to tradition. I admire that.

 

Street Life

It seems like everything happens on the streets in a Chinese city. From street-side barbers to pop-up night markets, life is all around you.