3 months out of China

It’s already been three months since I left China. It’s the longest I’ve been away for almost a decade! How am I feeling and how is China doing these days?

I had to stop and think if I really had not been this long outside of China for almost ten years, and yes, it seems it’s correct. A couple of years ago, when I brought my son here for the first time, I spent around a month and a half in Spain, and also in 2017 when I had to arrange my wedding. The last time I spent this long in Spain was in 2011, when I was working in Valencia for a year, at the end of which I convinced my then company to send me back to China.

These three months have felt quite long to me, maybe because I’ve been extremely busy with work. Perhaps also for this reason, I haven’t had time to miss China. To be honest, I’m feeling quite at home in Spain, even if that means literally being at home most of the time as I haven’t had holidays yet. Life here is so different from life in Suzhou, though. My hometown is quite small, and the holiday town where I’ve spend the last two months even more so. Entertainment options are way more limited, and I’ve traded malls for parks and beaches (I know I’m winning on this front, haha). I’m definitely glad to have skipped the horrible Suzhou summer, with its sweltering humid heat and the killer mosquitoes. And it seems it’s been raining nonstop there for like two months!

Oh, and ice cream is so cheap in Spain (well, or to be precise, so ridiculously expensive in China).

When I was first presented with the idea of having to be out of China for several months, I was definitely not very happy about it, especially now that our son is going to start preschool and we had already arranged a wonderful one in Suzhou where he would have learned English and swimming. Now he will attend a Spanish public preschool and I don’t even know what they do in class (it seems that they have textbooks with activities!). Another thing that annoyed me is that, by July, when we had our 5th wedding anniversary, I would have been able to aply for the Chinese “green card”, but now as I’ve been outside for more than 3 months I will have to wait for another 5 years in which I cannot leave for longer than 3 months per year. Oh well, it seems I’ll never apply for that card.

My husband, on the other hand, says he’s very happy about not having to work and even hints that we could stay here forever. Let’s see if he still thinks the same after a few more months! All the Chinese people that I know that have lived in Europe or North America always say that life is not as exciting as in China (i.e. they are bored out of their minds).

After several months here, I can say I’ve adapted surprisingly well. No culture shock for me and I haven’t been missing China for the moment. I’m loving the simple things, like having clouds in the sky, turning on the radio and hearing Spanish, and enjoying such a wide offer of plant milks in the supermarket (in Chinese supermarkets there’s only soy milk with a ton of sugar added or oat milk priced as if it was unicorn blood).

Clouds!

Besides, the situation in Suzhou is not great at the moment. Due to the covid-19 outbreak in Jiangsu, which is tiny compared to the daily numbers of new infections we see in Spain but is a big deal for China, during this month people have been quite restricted. QR codes to check where you have been to for the last 14 days were again required to enter malls, restaurants and public transportation and, based on what I read in Suzhou groups, if you had been outside of Suzhou for the previous two weeks you would be denied access to some places, like Suzhou Center. Considering that it was the middle of the summer holidays, most people with children had been outside of Suzhou travelling! I talked to some friends and they were very tired of having to go through everything again. Yes, we know it’s for the best, but will China assume at some point that this virus is going to be with us forever? Or will they just continue to impose restrictions and keep the borders closed even when 80 or 90% of the population has been vaccinated? (Right now it’s about 60%). We will see…