Struggle: 14th June Prompt

[Photograph taken in Siem Reap, Cambodia in one of the temples]


- make forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint 
  or constriction.
- engage in conflict.
- strive to achieve or attain something in the face of difficulty 
  or resistance.
- have difficulty handling or coping with.
- make one's way with difficulty.

I have become very familiar with this word over the past year, I don’t think I ever used it much BC [Before China], but here, it becomes one of your most used words and phrases (#OhChina and all that). A little struggle or challenge is something most people look for in life, something that creates a little resistance in the everyday trawl. Something to engage, test and push yourself to become a better, or maybe just a more experienced individual.

The struggle is real.” Candice uses this phrase a lot, and in consequence (they do say you pick up from your surroundings), so do I. Some struggles are good, as I said, they test you, they push you, you come out being a better person. Others though, others are just there to mess up your day, to test your patience when it really doesn’t need to be tested any more, or to make you realise just how easy (and often boring) life is back in our home countries. The language barrier obviously plays a big part in the everyday struggle of living in China, and perhaps that is our own fault for being too ignorant, or unskilled enough, to learn the language of the land we now call home. (However I have been told by a number of students that Chinese is very hard, and if they didn’t know it as a 1st language, they would never bother!). Most of us have learnt enough to get by, and with lots of hand gestures, we get by just fine. Having Chinese friends helps a lot too, just last night I had to WeChat (Chinese replacement of WhatsApp) Edward, the Chinese Art Technician and good friend of mine, to translate something for me just so I could make my life easier by using a trolley to move some items. This, was not a struggle, I’m unfortunately fairly used to handing over my phone to random strangers and workers, and not uttering a word. This was something Hannah and Soph struggled with a little when they came; they felt I was acting quite rude towards some of the staff in shops and malls. This is however, unfortunately or fortunately, the expat way here. More often than not my conversations with the taxi drivers are:

Get in car

Nihao –hands phone over with a Chinese address on it

Driver nods

Xie Xie

We arrive at destination

Ting jilli, dwae, xie xie, zhixen

Hand over cash, leave taxi.

You will obviously have to excuse my very poor and very shameful spelling for the Chinese pinying there, I know how to pronounce these few words, but not spell them, (spelling was never and never will be my forte in life).

So if we ignore the language barrier struggle, what other struggle is there? Well, countless. I don’t think it’s just China, it’s obviously not just China, it’s just that nothing is easy here. Diddly-squat. Nothing. Nahdda. When you go out for a day, an evening, a night out, you know that something is going to come up or change and you can never become too set on a plan. That’s definitely one valuable skill that living internationally will teach you I think; the ability to be totally flexible, calm, and take everything in your stride. I know some people would struggle with this, but others cope well. I’d like to think I’m one of the latter. Even simple things such as getting a train ticket, something you wouldn’t even think twice about doing back home, becomes a whole 3 person team effort. This is not only down to the language barrier (I told you, we’re ignoring that for now), but due to China’s obsession with using technology and going card-less. I don’t want to dig too deep into the boring logistics of China life, but if you are able to (most expats aren’t) get yourself an Ali pay account, your life here would be grand – easy as pie (slight exaggeration).

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not slating China, or moaning about my life here, probably quite the opposite in fact.

A few lines from Eminem come to mind here:
…Now I would never diss my own momma just to get recognition. Take a second to listen for who you think this record is dissing

I love my China life, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, maybe more than I thought I would, I guess the fact I’m willing to stay another year shows that. I think there is a certain appeal to the ‘China Struggle’. A sense of accomplishment you feel every day, small tasks feeling like great achievements (this sounds like a very selfish and righteous reason to stay… I promise you it’s not.) I enjoy the struggle; I embrace it, run with it, and want more. I want more of a challenge than this year, and living alone, moving away from all that I know here, seems to be the best way to do it. People often say here that if you can make it in China, you can make it anywhere. Everywhere is a walk in the park compared to life in China. That’s why some people leave, and come back, or just never leave. Returning to normal life in the Western world, it becomes mundane, too simple, and yes, too easy. Easy is good sometimes, that’s what holidays are for (if you’re not travelling). But I’m not ready for easy yet. I’m just getting started on the struggle ladder, and I’m not sure how high I want to go. Today it was joked in our VPA meeting that mum is going to get over the beauty and newness of Switzerland pretty quick, and crave and miss the struggle and challenges of China life. Life is never boring here… I’ll give China that.

As ready as I am to embrace the changes, challenges, and struggles that lie ahead over the next couple of months, I must admit that I’m ready for a little less resistance. I’m ready to be able to book my own train ticket, go to the shop and ask where something is, I’m ready to be able to understand the speaker announcements, or read a signpost. But, for how long? That’s the million dollar question ‘ey? In 36 days I’ll have my first taste of western civilisation since Christmas, and we’ll see how long I last…

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