Leaving

When you’re leaving a place, or someone is leaving you, in the culture I’ve been raised in, between friends, colleagues, family members etc it’s compulsory to have some kind of goodbye. Whether it’s a big leaving party, going for a meal, having a cup of tea and biscuits together, just anything really before that person leaves is how you consolidate friendships. It’s not only important to get together and talk about each other’s plans for the future, but also to come together and remember the things you experienced together in the past – good and bad times.

No matter how many people I meet in a given place, I will try my best to have some kind of farewell with them before I leave. Even if this means gathering three or four people who aren’t friends themselves, but are all my friends together for a coffee, if there’s not enough time (or money) to see them individually. In recent years I’ve also given my friends a postcard with my address on (and a stamp), so they can write to me and when I get home I have that to look forward to.

So I get really upset when friends of mine don’t make an effort to say goodbye to me. I know it’s hard to say goodbye to someone, especially if you don’t know if you’ll ever see them in your life again, but those last few days of having dinners, drinks and exchanging presents actually makes leaving easier.

Yes we are connected through instant messaging and social media, but there are some things that are just better said in person.

Saying goodbye and leaving is sad, there is no doubt about that. Yes I will cry, yes I may feel that pain in my stomach when my subconscious knows that this will be the last time I ever see someone again. But it’s something we have to do.

Maybe those people who left me without saying goodbye are from a different culture, or they didn’t think that last catch up was important. But it really is important to me. So I hope before I leave, we can meet again. We don’t have to go for a lavish meal, or spend 30mins drinking coffee, we don’t even have to exchange gifts or say the things we didn’t have the courage to say before. Just spending a last few moments with you is enough, I want to wish you well, give you an awkward hug and be able to say goodbye. Is that too much to ask for?

Gifts

 

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Peer Pressure

When I hear the words ‘peer pressure’, it immediately takes me back to secondary school and being told not to give in to peer pressure from older students trying to get us to take drugs or alcohol, those kinds of things. But in reality, I never experienced any type of (direct) peer pressure in school. Quite the opposite, now I’ve grown up, I’m experiencing more peer pressure than ever.

I think peer pressure has been thrown together with words like ‘bullying, alcohol, drugs, smoking’ etc for too long, and in reality, your peers can pressure you into doing a lot of things.

Food : I took part in Veganuary and it was pretty difficult to follow it through anyway, since I am living in a country that doesn’t have much awareness of veganism, but also because of the influence of my friends. If we went out to eat, as in China you share the dishes you order, there was always meat on the table, and I would be encouraged to eat. I told my friends I didn’t want to, because I was taking part in Veganuary, but it wasn’t really accepted.

Alcohol : After I was ill in Chongqing and as part of my half-marathon preparations, I stopped drinking alcohol. I still went to the bar to hang out with my friends, but I would constantly be asked “why are you not drinking?”, “where’s your drink?”.

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Embracing the new me

I guess the only reasoning behind them not accepting my decisions to not eat meat or drink alcohol is that I used to eat meat and I used to drink alcohol before, so surely I can do it again. Unlike because I’ve never smoked, if they offered me a cigarette, they’d know and accept my refusal.

But that way of thinking is totally wrong. People are constantly changing, and we change our minds about things every single day. The closest people around us should respect our decisions, even if they are the exact opposite from what we did yesterday.

I just wish that when I went out, people didn’t try to force me to eat meat, or drink alcohol in the same way that nobody forces me to take drugs or smoke. “Just one bite”, “just one beer” etc shouldn’t be used to try and persuade people to do things they don’t want to do, especially if they’re your friend and they’ve told you the reason why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Just because somebody used to do something, it doesn’t mean they will continue to love and enjoy doing that thing forever. Things happen, people change, so don’t try to force people to change back to their old self if they are busy embracing the new them.

Indian Bromance

When I was in India, I noticed that men are very affectionate and kind to each other. So here are some pictures I gathered showing friendship, companionship and men getting on well together.

The day I started to like China

If you talked to me in March, you’ll know that I didn’t really like China. The food was oily and hard to eat with chopsticks, I wasn’t comfortable with the language and everything was totally different. Although the food is still greasy, I now feel a lot more accustomed to my Chinese life and it all started when I ran out of toothpaste.

You know you’ve been away from home for a while when you have to buy a new tube of toothpaste. My Colgate whitening toothpaste (the one with the crystals in) had run out and I thought buying a new one would be no big deal. In March I bought some mouthwash that had an image of a leaf on it, I assumed it to be a mint leaf but later when I got back and tasted it I realised it wasn’t mint….I read the characters and saw it was green tea flavour. It wasn’t unpleasant so I kept using it.

It was April by the time I needed new toothpaste and I had forgotten about the mouthwash thing. At the toothpaste aisle, I chose the crest one with a diamond on it, the middle character 白 means white and I didn’t want to waste an hour checking all the characters on all the types so I just chose it, thinking it would be fine. It looks harmless, right?
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When I went to use it, as I squeezed it out, I saw it was pink coloured…. OK, that’s new but I’m in China. I put my toothbrush in my mouth and instantly realised it was not mint flavour and not diamond flavour either. I was confused and upset, all I wanted was minty breath. Then I turned over the tube and saw what was on the back…

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A huge pink lotus flower. I had chosen morning dew lotus flower flavoured toothpaste. I mean, have you ever eaten flowers? Why anyone would want to have lotus breath is beyond me, but that moment I realised I had two options. I could be miserable in China, complain and moan about all the things I experience that I don’t like or I could just get on with it and take whatever China throws at me. I chose the latter. I had to start enjoying my time in this country rather than just “getting by”.

Now when I see strange things, experience uncomfortable situations or eat unknown food I try to make the best out of the situation. I have eaten chicken feet or rather nibbled on them – there’s not much meat to be eaten. I’ve mastered how to eat noodle soup with chopsticks and without slurping (Chinese people slurp noodles loudly to show they’re tasty but I can’t bring myself to do it just yet). I’ve seen builders standing on the same ledge that they’re drilling away and open manholes with no fence around them.

Personally, China is a place I’ve had to learn to enjoy, unlike other places that I’ve been to and have instantly fallen in love with. Now that I like China, I can have more fun. I’m also more confident to do things.

Last weekend me and my coursemate David went to our Chinese friend’s hometown and stayed with him and his family. We weren’t really sure what we’d signed up for and I was a little nervous to tell the truth. But soon after arriving I felt at ease as Chinese people are incredibly good hosts, too good in fact. If we coughed a commotion was made and immediately our glasses were filled with boiling hot water. They also sent us home with a little gift and a bag of apples.

Today I went to another Chinese friend’s house to make dumplings. He originally suggested I just go to eat the dumplings but I wanted to help make them too. His apartment was small, cute and welcoming, as were his mother and sister. We made so many dumplings (pork and Chinese chive flavoured) and then ate lots of meat. When it was time to leave him and his Mum filled up doggy bags with roasted duck meat, chicken skewers, cherries and a whole watermelon the size of my head.

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The two Chinese friends who came with my left empty handed as they were better at refusing than I was. When I told Jim I didn’t want the meat he said “please take it, I seldom eat meat and my mother is very fat.” How could I say no to that?

Anyway, I think the moral of this story is that if life gives you lotus toothpaste…. buy a new one.