Yesterday China celebrated 100 years since the Communist Party of China (CPC) was founded. You can find plenty of news about that on Chinese and international outlets. Each with their own set of biased views – make of it what you will. By now I’m somewhere in the middle between East and West. I like to think that I can view both critically as well as kindly. Ruben made an interesting point in his talk last week. The medium of the photobook makes it difficult to rewrite history. It has been tried, by crudely erasing former allies turned foes. But, as they are distributed in high numbers it’s impossible to take them all back and edit them to fit an ‘improved’ version of history. So, whoever is celebrating whatever version of history, snapshots of a certain time will remain in the form of photobooks.
On the day of party for the Party I was enjoying a rare day off. I’m content to be home in the village after a month full of travel and events.
Another Chinese party
This month I’m also celebrating. I’m going to throw a big village fest that is going to be half expat hippy bash, half traditional Bai minority feast. It’s a triple whammy: a belated housewarming, my birthday, and: my leaving party.
Yes, my Chinese adventure is slowly drawing to an end. I always knew I wasn’t going to grow old here, but when I moved into my beautiful courtyard home I was expecting to be here for another two to five years. But, recent developments on the family, professional and geopolitical fronts made me contemplate a return.
Since moving to Dali I have discoverd a lifestyle that I love and want to continue for a long time to come. An online job that is low stress and provides a base income and that I can do anywhere as long as I have an internet connection. Enough time and headspace to work on cultural or writing projects on the side. A cheap life in a countryside home, with a market with fresh fruit and vegetables nearby. Surrounded by nature and silence and the slow pace of the village. A cute town nearby with cafes and the occasional party. An interesting community of locals and expats. It’s not exactly reclusive but it’s a peaceful base to return to from trips to bigger cities or busy weekends filled with events.
For the longest time I was thinking about my extended China adventure as a phase that would come to an end at some point, and I would return to the normality of the Netherlands. Well, normality got a big shake-up last year, which pushed me to pursue the life that I really want. I left a toxic work environment and embraced the freedom – and financial insecurity – of a freelance existence. As things are working out quite well, I recently I realized this is not a ‘phase’. This is actually a life that I love. I need (financial) freedom and flexibility and I need change. So, my stay in Dali is short, but it has brought me this wonderful insight.
This is the plan: later this year I will move to Plovdiv in Bulgaria. It’s in the EU, so no more visa hassle or travel restrictions. I’ll be able to visit friends and family in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe much more easily and I’m really looking forward to that. Plovdiv is a beautiful town of about 600,000 inhabitants. It boasts a mediaeval city centre and a roman amphitheatre that is still being used for music performances.
Funnily enough, two Kunming friends liver here now. Life here is cheap, compared to the rest of the EU. I cycled through on my way to Tokyo and liked the vibe. It’s a bit random, moving from China to Bulgaria, but considering my recent insights it makes a lot of sense. I’ll be able to continue the lifestyle I fell in love with. I will be closer to home, but still on an adventure. To stay in the spirit of Dali, I’m hoping to find another countryside house to renovate there.
I’m happy to leave China on my terms, at my pace. I will hand over my company and my projects to a Dutch friend, but I will remain involved as the curator of the Dutch Culture Nights. Next year I hope to visit China again, when another PechaKucha Night Dali will hopefull happen. There are many things and people I will miss but the good memories of my China years I’ll keep for the rest of my life. I’m currently studying tea ceremony again, so I’ll bring a bit of Chinese culture with me to Bulgaria. Here is to a hybrid, culturally diverse and global lifestyle lived with gusto.