Today is Australia Day, and I have so many mixed feelings about it – about being an expatriate, and about the date itself.
This was the week I finally accepted something I already knew to be true, not just as an idea but as a reality. Repatriation is hard. It takes time – a lot of time. And there is no shortcut. It is challenging to invest in a place my heart is not attached to – my mind has been in the world that I have known and loved and invested in for more than a decade.
I leave Cambodia for Australia tomorrow morning, 11 years since I first moved to China. I have crammed a lot into those 11 years! My whole adult life, the whole span of time lived outside my parents’ house. My entire career. All the things I did on my own, as an independent adult, I did in those 11 years.
This is the fourth country I’ve spent Christmas in, the tenth time I’ve spent the day outside Australia. Christmas is celebrated differently everywhere, so here are some decorations and some of my favourite Christmas videos – just for fun!
Soon the Cambodian Stars became one of the last things packed and first things put up whenever I moved. And when I myself moved to Cambodia the Cambodian Stars came home. I hung them in my bedroom – a promise, a reminder.
A lot of people have made comments along the lines of “but you’ll be back”. I hope that’s true, but I don’t know for sure. It’s important to me that I close this chapter well, that I don’t leave things hanging. I need this to be a real ending.
While I’m not excited about leaving China, I am excited about WHY I am leaving. As surreal as it is to be leaving the world I know and love here, I want to continue to grow – which means being me in different places, doing different things.
I am obviously foreign in a country whose citizens are, for the most part, quite ethnically homogenous. I stand out. Not everyone sees past it all and connects with the person underneath. I love when it doesn’t matter that I’m a foreigner.
These interactions are something I’ll miss when I leave. They make me love speaking Chinese, and the way it helps me think from another culture’s viewpoint. It makes me want to learn more languages, and live in more places.
I remember how different my apartment felt when that furniture arrived. They weren’t just things – they meant something. It’s so strange to think they won’t be mine again. That these solid pieces of my life in China are just gone.
I bought a one-way plane ticket out of China. There’s something so FINAL about having paid for a plane ticket, about having a concrete date. About knowing exactly how much time I have left here. I suspect that’s why I put it off so long.
I was surprised at all the emotions stirred in me my when my flight landed in Beijing. I’m back – but I’m not staying. I’m home – but it won’t be my home for much longer. As I looked down I realised that I am about to become home-less.