This is my third year in Suzhou, China. There have been many ups and downs during these 2 years, and the last year has been an OK year, not a great year. I was going through a lot of difficult things but I am doing better now. I feel better. I could give you a list of all the things I don’t like, but let’s focus on the positives.
For all those who don’t know Suzhou, it is a city half an hour from Shanghai by bullet train. It is a nice place partly with traditional buildings, scenic spots and gardens, and nowadays it is being invaded by newly built, oddly shaped buildings. One of the latter is what we commonly call the “Pants” or “trousers” buildings (See pictures below).
I hadn’t lived in any other country apart from Mauritius before coming to China and so, the different lifestyle was a bit difficult to get used to but there are still some things which you will always find a novelty.
Despite living in a democratic country where there is considerable freedom given that my native country is an independent country, I sometimes felt suffocating. I guess this is because I live in a close-knit community. All my relatives reside all around me, and although I consider myself lucky to have them around, I sometimes crave for some “me” time. A second thing is that whenever I get out of the house, I feel very self-conscious. I feel as if I should dress in a certain way or behave in a certain way. I cannot really be me for fear that others will judge me on my appearance or my opinions.
Here in China, though, I feel more comfortable. I can wear whatever I want and I can be myself in public because I guess, many people here dress crazily here. They wear weirder combinations of colors and clothes than I do. They have this thing here, where they go to the supermarket in their pajamas and their blankets (during winter of course). Once I saw a girl come to university in a pair of matching shorts and t-shirt with rabbits on them. I guess my weird sense of fashion is kind of normal for them.
Another thing that I like about China is that transportation is very convenient. Some buses on some routes work 24 hours and many buses work till as late as 10 p.m. You can also order a taxi or didi as we call it here in China. Otherwise there is also Uber which is available till very late again. Another mode of transport is the subway. You can reach a station in about 2 minutes and when there is a lot of traffic on the roads that is the best way to get to your destination. For example, here in Suzhou, there is humongous traffic at around 6, so it is faster by metro.
I think that the best thing yet is that it is safe at night. I can go shopping, have dinner, watch a movie and return home by bus at midnight and I will not feel scared to walk from the bus stop until my apartment. There are also street food vendors from 10 p.m. until about 2 a.m. Yes, it is unhealthy and oily and greasy but that doesn’t hurt if you eat it once in a while.
It is so different from Mauritius, where everything closes at 6(in my village, yes everything closes early), everyone is at home eating homemade food, and the thought of having a walk after 8 makes my parents scared to death. The thought of me returning from tuitions late at night alone was scary not just for my parents but for me too. I remember standing at the bus stop and seeing no one there, very little light shining from the neighbor’s house, and with no taxi, no bus, no one, but drunkards and one or two persons returning from work.
Despite liking the lifestyle here in China, I still miss my home, Mauritius, because of the food. The thought of rice, dal, and green leafy vegetables makes me drool. The thought of biryani makes me want to catch a flight to return home, and the thought of Mauritian street food like dholl puri and roti makes me crazy.
I try to make some of the dishes here but it does not taste the same. I made pumpkin and aloo ke paratha (paratha stuffed with potato) and khichdi once. Those were the moments when I missed home the most. It’s as if you are getting only half the taste.
Comment below and let me know, what you like or don’t like about your country or if you are living in a foreign country, what you miss about home.
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