After six years in China (and 12 holidays in which to travel) I finally filled up my passport. Even the last two “endorsement” pages is filled with visas, stamps and residence permits. Before the school can re-hire me I have to get more pages added. (Fun fact: Americans will no longer be able to add pages to their passports by the end of 2015. So if you need pages, add them quick. Starting 2016 you’ll have to get a new passport entirely when your pages run out.)
So I have to go to the embassy to do it. I could go to Hong Kong, as that embassy is closest. But is it the most fun? No. Shanghai would be the most fun for me. And with friday being a national holiday, and with me having to cancel class anyway for the embassy, turns out I ended up with a 6-day holiday. So I’m going to Shanghai baby!
And I’m excited. Soooooo excited. And I realized something funny. To me, going to Shanghai feels like “going home.” Even more so then America at this point.
Shanghai is a city that I am intimately familiar with over years of visiting. When I was in Lin’an I went at least 10-12 times a year. I stay at the same place (my favorite hostel), I go to the same places, and most importantly, I see my friends.
I never lived in Shanghai and yet it is the place I have the most friends. Not quite sure how that happened, but I’m not complaining. And these friends have known me for years. I’ve known one friend, Hannah, almost the whole time I’ve been in China. We met at the end of my first year and have seen each other regularly since then. There is also my bestie, Ben, an American, who I’ve been close with for almost 3 years.
And that’s meaningful to me. The longer I’ve been in China, the more I and other expats move, the more I find comfort in people who have known me a long time. I love that Hannah knew me when I was with my ex, knew me when we broke up and saw me as I changed. She’s also met all the important people in my life (I ended up bringing my closest friends to Shanghai with me). I love that Ben has seen me through all my dating drama’s and I’ve met all his favorite co-workers who have since become friends of mine.
One of my favorite things of traveling is going to new places and meeting new people. The baggage of your past doesn’t have to go with you if you don’t pack it. But as China becomes my home, my real home, I also like people who know me. I like our shared history and our shared past. I get tired when I’m around the same people year after year. But I don’t have to worry about that in China, so I like the few rare people I have known for a long time.
And the city has a special place in my heart. Since I’ve never lived there, I never had any disappointments. It’s like my playground of good food, good shopping and the best time with amazing fun people. It’s a place I never lived and yet, when I go back, I feel like I’m going home.