Return to China

I’m writing this on a quiet and cold Sunday in the warm Amsterdam house of a friend. I have to eat my words from the last blog post – the ‘strangely uneventful‘ days are definitely over. I’m about to return to China.

Early in January, when I was in Berlin, I spotted a vacancy with the Dutch consulate in Shanghai. I didn’t have plans to go back to China, but when I saw this opportunity my heart did a little somersault. I applied, and got the job.

Things are happening pretty fast. Last week I packed up my things in Bulgaria and had a Chinese hot pot leaving dinner party with my friends.

I hopped on a train to the Netherlands. Here, I arrived after a pleasant 99-hour rail journey with stopovers in Bucharest and Budapest.

Довиждане България, 你好中国

So, it’s goodbye Bulgaria and hello (again) China. Why go back? I didn’t leave China because I didn’t love the country or my life there anymore. I left because life as a freelancer in pandemic circumstances felt precarious. Flights were insanely expensive and after two years of being stuck inside Chinese borders I was fed up. I’m still very glad I made the choice to move my base to Bulgaria. Here, I made a soft landing and recharged during a low-stress year filled with quiet mornings with tea.

I made some great new friends. Seeing old friends and family and enjoying the unbridled freedom of Europe has been wonderful. Long train journeys through the Balkans, exploring Greece, walking around Amsterdam, hiking in Northern Ireland. Bulgaria is still there but it will have to wait a while. I hold residency, have set up a company there and I hope to return and continue with the mountain-house-hunt.


In a couple of weeks I will fly to Shanghai. Life there will be the complete opposite of freelancing from a small village in Yunnan. I’m looking forward to experiencing a different view on this vast and old and fast-changing complex country. I’ve visited Shanghai before – I love the city and I have some good friends who I look forward to seeing again. There is art and culture and business and a much bigger international community. There is history and high-tech and restaurants offering cuisines from all over China and beyond. I’m also very much looking forward to visiting Yunnan. Seeing my friends, my old house, a trip to the tea regions.

In a way, it feels as if I’m going home. In the year-and-a-bit since I left China a lot has changed – as it always does. Many of my friends have left and the geopolitical landscape is forever shifting. I’ll work in a new job in a new city. I’m ready for the challenges and the changes. I’m excited to have a chance to return to China and collect more experiences and impressions, and to continue to study the language and the tea culture.

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