At 7:25 am last Tuesday morning, after an unsuccessful attempt at a night's sleep inside Beijing Capital Airport, I boarded the plane that would take me away from the new life I had been living in China and plant me back into the my old one in the UK (via Dubai). As I watched the city disappear beneath me I struggled to balance feelings of regret and sadness at leaving behind my friends and my Beijing life but also immense excitement at what awaited me in Birmingham- I had told my boyfriend that I would be back in February but planned to come back three weeks early as a birthday surprise for him. Despite a couple of instances which could have proved disastrous and ruined my plans, including my entry on the guestlist of a ball I wasn't supposed to be able to come to and drunken Skype calls which I later analysed scrupulously to make sure I hadn't slipped up and told him, the surprise went perfectly and his reaction as I nonchalantly strolled through the door of the kitchen was absolutely fantastic.
I hadn't envisaged that I would experience reverse culture shock and rather expected my first trip back into the centre of Birmingham to be accompanied by a rush of excitement and a wave of immense happiness similar to greeting an old friend; instead it was grey, drab and a bit of a disappointment. I wandered around aimlessly whilst reeling at the extortionate prices of things in comparison to those in China and, deciding to try and bring back a bit of my Beijing life, bought two large packs of frozen dumplings from a Chinese supermarket. I realised that I was in a similar position to when I was away and trying to seek out things that reminded me of my life back home- now I was doing the opposite and looking for things which I had back in China in order to cling on to the memories of the good times I had out there.
That said, being reunited with my family and friends has been nothing short of amazing and my slight feeling of being a bit disconnected doesn't at all mean that I was disappointed to see them. On Friday night I was treated to a second Christmas dinner with my family, complete with crackers, a tree and Shakin' Stevens- a little more traditional than my Beijing Christmas but highly enjoyable nonetheless.
One amusing result of having spent nearly five months in another country where few people speak English has been the loss of my inhibitions about saying anything I want due to people not being able to understand me. I think I embarrassed my brother the other day when we were standing in a queue at the Co-op whilst waiting for a train and I was loudly whispering 'come on, come on, stop faffing about!' before realising that everyone was probably thinking to themselves what an impatient so-and-so I was.
I have yet to update this blog on the adventures we had during our week of travelling before I left China but I think that belongs in another post to stop this one from becoming too long. Zaijian everyone!