We’re Not in the Middle Kingdom Anymore, Toto…

I have a feeling I may need to change the name of this blog, or at the very least acknowledge that its impracticality is about to soar to new heights of uselessness.



Shanghai, you’re not trying very hard to make me miss you.


I have, you see, buggered off. I’m actually in rainy, green rolling hilled rural Leicestershire right now, with my life in Shanghai very nearly twenty days in the past. I’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of cheese since I left, because I can, and have taken to breathing in deeply and enthusiastically because the air no longer makes my chest ache or my lungs tickle awkwardly.



Not Chinese food.



No more close and heavy and brutally hot days being deafened by cicadas rattling in the plane trees above. No more uneven sidewalks threatening to swallow me whole as I carted my boxes of carefully pared down possessions to the post office on Guilin Lu. Five boxes shipped home; one sprained ankle from a loose paving tile outside the Hualian supermarket. Days of people passing through the flat picking up things to be sold or given away or tossed out for the local recyclers.





As I stood outside our compound waiting for a taxi to go to the airport hotel we had booked for our last night before flying, surrounded by exactly 4 suitcases and 2 carry on bags, the wife of the recycling couple came striding up to me with a massive grin on her face and my lovely discarded embroidered ballet flats on her feet (regrettably water stained from the torrential downpours of the previous weeks). Apparently my hideously large size 41 laowai shoes fit her perfectly and my big bag of left behind clothes and shoes would not be going to waste. A welcomed change after the trauma of having left way too much behind when leaving Turkey back in 2008.



Outside the Guilin lu post office, late June. Chaos.


Twenty days removed from the city and I still haven’t fully processed the move. I have brief flashes of memory and longing for certain corners and tastes and angles and specific places at specific times- Lanzhou lamian in steamy crowded noodle joints, the old lanes on Jiashan Lu with their outdoor sinks, flopping street fish and terrified birds in cages, exiting the Caobao lu metro station at Exit 1, the trees on Hengshan lu at night, xiaolongbao at the tiny place on Guilin Lu that closed down completely (gutted, including light fixtures) the day before we left, cold and spicy and slippery liangpi from various stalls around the city, mops hanging from laundry poles outside third floor windows or tucked into brick laneways. The memories don’t make me ache though, which is a sign that hopefully I was able to methodically and carefully disengage myself from the city and my life there in a way that won’t prove to be traumatic over time.

The last month in the city was intense and hurried and full. A lot happened. A lot I haven’t written about yet, but which will change everything I do next. More about those things later. It’s been an odd year, to be sure, one I hadn’t even remotely anticipated back in December. The year of the snake is a sly, tricky one.

At any rate, I’m back now. My writing voice was gone for quite a while. Too much to process as it was happening. My words still feel awkward and stilted and slightly unnatural. Hopefully that will pass. I’ll be royally pissed off with myself if they don’t.

Can I tell you about Leicestershire? Does anyone need an impractical guide? I can try for a London one in a few weeks as well. And Vancouver Island. And Mexico. It’s going to be a busy year ahead. I think I need a cup of tea.

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog's title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.