I recently had to fly back to Australia to have some urgently needed surgery. I have had the surgery, and my doctor has given me the all-clear to travel internationally, and to go back to teaching again. I will return to China very soon. Now, I am writing from my study in my modest but comfortable home in Robertson, Queensland. This is a very wealthy suburb of Brisbane, about 12 km from the city center. It adjoins Sunnybank, which is the largest Chinese-populated suburb in Australia. I look around me, and wonder why I am going back to China.
It is close to the middle of winter here, and there are clear blue skies and the occasional cotton-wool white clouds. The days are sunny and clean, the nights are crisp and invigorating. For the less faint-hearted than I there is swimming in the Bay, still in the metropolitan area. I took my beautiful Chinese wife of eight years up to the tropical Whitsundays for a holiday a couple of weeks ago. We explored the beaches; hired a car and drove up on to the Atherton Tableland; took a boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeled within feet of some incredible coral fish, and visited many wonderful attractions in Cairns. I have almost decided to settle down in that beautiful city when the time comes.
That time, however, has not yet come!
I have grown to love China almost as much as I love Australia. I have lived in three very diverse parts of the country during the last eight years. Shijiazhuang in north China's Hebei Province was my first experience. I lived and worked in an army establishment (This is where I met my wife). Being an ex-military man I had a keen interest in the way they did things. I met some very interesting people, both military and civilian. The experience gave me an insight into the way of thinking there. The idea of war is abhorred as much as it is by the "ordinary people" in the West. The biggest army in the world is about stopping wars, not starting them.
Dalian in northeastern Liaoning Province was my next place of residence and teaching. What a wonderful, progressive city it is. It is probably the cleanest city that I have been to in China. Cold! Believe me that being up near the North Korean and Russian borders, with a big seafront, makes it cold. There is huge growth potential there. Intel, the computer chip manufacturer, is one of the major additions to the city's industry. With its $2.5 billion plant, opened in 2010, it is Intel's largest facility outside of Silicon Valley, California, employing some 1,500 local people.
Quanzhou, which is tucked away, seemingly, at the rural end of the line in southeastern Fujian Province, the home of the best tea in China, is my most recent home. It has all the things that big cities have, and my teaching at a university there was very enjoyable. I find the southern people full of life, and always happy. Chinese people are generally preoccupied with making and accumulating money, but this does not preclude them from enjoying every possible opportunity to celebrate. They do this with fireworks. It does wear a little thin to the Western ear, but I am sure there are some Western traditions that grate on Chinese sensibilities!
I am looking forward to returning to my second home in the very near future. I will happily put up with the noisy fireworks, the seeming lack of sophistication, the nebulous form of communication, and the lack of Western-style facilities, to enjoy the simple and pleasurable life there.
The author is an Australian working in Fujian Province