The countdown

I have a handful of days left in Manila, less than a week to go in my apartment. I’ve been packing up my stuff, sifting through all the stuff that can accumulate in a year. Going through old notebooks, I find “to do” lists and notes from work — notes that make me laugh, smile or cringe. Lots of it is being thrown away. Some being packed into boxes and shipped back to my parents’ house in Nevada, where it will wait indefinitely for my return. The essentials are being stuffed into my one suitcase, one duffel bag and one backpack.

In less than a month I’ll be in Nanjing studying Chinese at Nanjing Normal University. I’ll be there for a semester, perhaps longer. Returning to China is something I’ve been thinking about doing all year, but finally contacted the university in July.

Smelling US dollars, the university immediately said they have room in their program (it’s always good to know you’re getting into a school for your intelligence). The representative at the international students office and I started a bizarre email conversation, where I would request something three times and he would pretend to not have received any of the emails. OK, so maybe he didn’t, but I doubt that. This doesn’t really surprise me, I am, after all, returning to China. I spent a year there as a teacher in Hangzhou, a city relatively close to Nanjing. I know the antics, I know the craziness I’ll be dealing with in a few weeks.

But despite all its frustrations, I’ve missed China. I felt like I left Hangzhou right when my Chinese was starting to get good, right when I was comfortable and settled into my life there, right when men in pajamas shopping for vegetables in mid day and tiny tricycles overflowing with Styrofoam cruising down a busy downtown street became normal sights.

I may only stay for a semester. I may stay longer. I’m playing it by ear. But whatever happens, I’m sure the next few months will be filled with crazy stories and great adventures.

Manila has been good to me and I will miss it. Despite all of the frustrations of the year, I’ve made some great friends, seen some amazing places and accomplished things I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anywhere else. I didn’t get to swim with the whale sharks or see the rice terraces in Banaue this year, so I’m sure I’ll return for a visit very soon.

*****

Photos: Top: Nanjing Normal University. This photo was taken on my trip to Nanjing in 2004. Middle: A man transports a ridiculous amount of styrofoam on the back of his tricycle in front of my old apartment in Hangzhou. Bottom: Hangzhou’s famous West Lake. No, that is not mist. It’s pollution.

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