At this time of year it is common to be thinking of home: of friends and family gathering for Christmas and New Year celebrations. It’s easy to remember your former life through rose-tinted lenses. I miss working in a school and the students’ growing anticipation, ticking down the days, opening advent calendars, imagining the presents under the tree.
I miss the growing cold and the hint of snow. It made it so much more rewarding to get home, get a cup of hot tea, get into a warm bed. The temperature in Guangzhou certainly dips and you will be cold but it is never the same. You won’t see snow here. The local Starbucks will gleefully advertise all things Christmasy but it feels like hollow commercialism.
There are a few small but pleasant Christmas Markets run out of the big hotels. Perhaps the best event is a carol concert held at the Guangzhou Cathedral where ‘Starry Night’ echoes out in the high stone vaults that could belong to any Medieval European Cathedral. The delightful student choirs from the city’s international schools, mine included, transported me briefly back to childhood. Just a pity that the streets outside brought me quickly back to reality: they’re packed with the most tacky and ostentatious Christmas decorations you have ever seen. Who buys half-sized sparkly sleighs and golden reindeer? Surely not the non-Christmas celebrating locals!
So what can you do? Take an expensive flight home and spend a short time with friends and family? You run the risk of feeing unsettled; caught between two worlds, with a heart in the past and a body in the present. But you are doing what you spent years back home wanting: an adventure. Toast to that and go home next year. I’m a wistful MJF, this is Guangzhou, that’s 303 words.
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