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Nearly Time to Leave

Welcome fellow InterNations Expats to my regular slot in which I will be sharing with you my experiences and learnings from living in China’s third largest city, Guangzhou.

Over two years ago my wife and I attended an education job fair in London. One of the many reasons we chose Guangzhou was because of a picture that showed - with the help of many exciting lines - how close it is to a wide variety of south and south-east Asian destinations. Guangzhou equalled adventure.

Fourteen months later I can testify to the truth of this picture. Guangzhou's airport is expanding rapidly with direct services across China and Asia: to London, Paris, Moscow, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Sydney and Christchurch, New Zealand. If you want even more options, then Hong Kong is a simple train ride away. In fact, having Hong Kong (and Macau) so close is another advantage as there are always easy weekend getaways.

In many respects I feel lucky to be living in Guangzhou as it has been a gateway to many dream destinations, from the temples of Angkor Watt in Cambodia to seeing Orang-utans in Borneo; from tropical beaches in Thailand to the terracotta warriors in Xian; from trekking in Nepal and seeing the top of Everest as the clouds parted, to taking my best friend on a tour to magical Yangshuo. Every time we have told people we are from the UK and the USA BUT we live in China, they are impressed as if Guangzhou is the new Shangri-La.

The People of Asia

What has made the biggest impression on me is the people. The curious, friendly, welcoming people. Wherever we have gone, that universal cultural sign of humanity, that dismissal of differences and politics – the wave - has greeted us. It is the children of China and Asia who have been the most giving of the waves and often in the poorest areas.

In Cambodia - squashed together on the saddles of the millions of motorbikes, watching from crumbling balconies, bundled into the back of trucks, the children start with stares and surprise but soon, in seconds, the nerves fire up, kind muscles kick in and the faces crack into big smiles and their hands are endlessly, endlessly waving.

In Borneo – the fishermen in the Tanjung Puting National Park, nestled up against the crocodile infested river ferns, riding the waves made by the stream of chugging tourist boats. They wave openly and kindly, and hope to catch their lunch. On the river in the centre of Pangkalan Bun – the river known for making Dengue Fever and Malaria as common as colds – the children splashing around outhouse latrines. They all wave as we pass by; they wave so hard it’s stronger than any river. It will wash us all clean.

The Adventure is Coming to an End

Back here in Guangzhou, mothers love it when their children interact with us foreigners – on the street, in the Wet Market, the metro, at Starbucks - staring at us with such wide, questioning eyes. Equally, when we have been with our American-Italian friends and their ten year old son, the roles are reversed. Now their son is the celebrity getting his picture taken by the employees in the China Mobile shop who instantly place it on We Chat. In Guangzhou, the home of the Canton Trade Fair, children are the valuable assets. They will care for us in our old age and hopefully invent ways to save us from the way we are treating the planet.

Sadly, our adventures here are coming to an end. Our two year work contracts are due for renewal but we are returning to Europe to start a new adventure there. We have very mixed feelings about this, which will be the subject of the last blog. I'm MJF, this is Guangzhou and that's 606 words.


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David Thyne

"At the first Shanghai Get-Together I met several American expats. I am very grateful that they shared their experience with me."

Diana Anhaus-Brey

"It is just so easy to find other international people and global minds with InterNations. I didn´t know there were so many in Shanghai."

Global Expat Guide