Stepping off the plane back into China was like stepping onto a whole different planet that I had visited before, knew well and yet somehow felt totally foreign. The first reminder of being back in this strange, yet familiar place, was when queuing for the ladies bathrooms in the terminal a lady chose not to see the rather long line that was forming, pushing in front of everyone to take the next available stall. When I finally made it to the front of the official line, and fought off another queue-jumper, the squat toilet with a sign on the door telling me to ‘be careful when standing up’ so that I didn’t fall in made the experience more amusing, but not more pleasant.
When I had been away in Prague living in China had often come up in conversation, and I had many amusing stories to tell. Some of my stories about everyday life shocked several of my listeners and I was asked more than once: why do you like it so much? Why do you even want to go back? This is a difficult question to answer and I was asking it myself when I arrived at my new flat at 6am after a 12-hour flight and spent the first 3 hours on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, shaking spiders out of the bed covers and vacuuming up cat hairs.
But here I am, in my new apartment. Now that I’ve scrubbed all the crusty dust from the floor and eradicated the cat hairs and spiders it’s starting to feel homelier with all my belongings arranged neatly inside. From my big window I can see over the compound park and hear kids playing after school. I’ve got 60 days left in this unpredictable country, and I’m going to make the most of them, spiders and all.