Today I’m leaving Shanghai. FOREVER!
I’ve been saying it’s my last year in Shanghai every year since I got here — 5 years ago — but when it came to ACTUALLY doing it; to quitting jobs and getting rid of stuff and saying goodbye to people, this whole thing came about really quickly, but I think that’s the best way to do it. This time around, things with visas and jobs and people and places just lined up and it was time to go. And that’s okay, because I love Shanghai, and I don’t want to drag it out.
The strangest part about everything is that I’m finally the one leaving. If you stay here a while you find yourself replacing every friend on a yearly basis and you get to the point where if someone says, “I’m an intern,” you turn around and walk the other way because why bother? It’s too draining to be friends with someone for only 6 months.
But then you find those people who are dug in like you are, and suddenly you realize that Shanghai, for a young foreigner, is actually like a small town. You see the same people at the same places. You walk down the street in your neighborhood in a city of 25 million and run into people you know. Everyone overlaps. It’s like a small town; except that it’s filled with people you want to know.
That’s why I like it. It’s not so familiar as to draw people who think it’s just like living at home, but not so exotic to draw people who want to forgot where they came from. It’s just…in the middle. Interesting people come here and do interesting things. That probably happens in a lot of places around the world, but for me, Shanghai was a place that stuck.
I wish I had more to say about a city that’s meant a lot to me; a place where I’ve met some people who are going to stick with me for a while; a place with a rough but welcoming music scene; a place I look forward to coming home to after visiting others even though I talk a lot of shit about it. It’s actually a bit strange, because after living in Shanghai for a month, I felt like I could’ve written a book, but after this many years…I don’t know. It’s Shanghai. It is what it is.
All that being said, if you’ve never lived abroad and you get a chance to, do it. It’s not possible for the vast majority of people in this world so if there’s any way you can make it happen, do it. There’s just so much going on the world every day that we have no idea about — and not because of our refusal to see it, but simply because we don’t have the time or opportunity or ability. Living abroad will show you that the world, while on the surface appears to be very big, is in actuality very small, and so is our perception of it.
These are the things that I will miss: green onion pancakes, elderly people flying kites and doing tai chi in Fuxing Park, walking around the city for hours at night, disposable income, hanging outside of the Family Mart (it’s where all the cool kids are), smuggling beers in MAO because fuck that ridiculous bar ticket system, little kids who are dumbfounded/giggle when you speak to them in Chinese, the Shelter, Yuyintang.
These are the things I will not miss: noise pollution (including the sound of a man hawking a big one on the sidewalk behind me), public urination/defecation of any sort, the inability to follow the universal civilization rules of “stand on the right, walk on the left” and queuing, throwing up from the window of a taxi (not that I’ve ever done this, heh), cocktails that cost 138rmb (that’s $22, yo!), “China days,” that time a guy spit on my foot and I crashed my bike.
But that’s that. I lived in Shanghai; it was good. On to the next thing.
I haven’t lived in America in more than 7 years, but I’ve been assured we all have health insurance, organic marijuana and hover pants now, which is the only reason I’m returning. You’d best not disappoint, USA.