Sunday, October 5, 2008

Unexpected Nostalgia

An extract from an email recently written to a friend in Kuwait:

'Despite the various frustrations of life in Kuwait: the shady employer, the bureaucratic sloth and irrationality, the lack of 'things to do', the Islamic rigour, the intense awareness of inequality, the prevalence of basic racism and social injustice, I already feel I miss the place. Not only the people and the friends I made but a certain buzz and energy that I think is a feature throughout the Middle East. I'm not sure I know how to explain it, but it was certainly there in Kuwait, as it was in other Middle Eastern countries I've visited.'

This does not mean, however, that I regret leaving Kuwait, far less that I regret coming to China, which as a venture is far too young to evaluate.

It's a pity, though, that the campus is 60s gloom, not the Durhamic majesty that surrounded me when I was last attached to a University, or the gracious delicacy of the Cambridge that embraced me as a child.

And that the campus is 30 minutes out of town in an insulated western cocoon.

Still, these are not significant complaints.


Selena Dreamy said...

...very interesting that, Jon. Are you living on campus? What's your accommodastion like?



Jonathan said...

Yes, living on a modernist looking campus. And not in Shanghai, as your comment on your blog suggested, but in Ningbo, a city 3 hours to the south, which used to be more important than Shanghai and was, so I understand, coveted unsuccessfuly for a hundred years by the East India Company before Britain establihsed its first consulate here after the First Opium War.

The hostel I stayed in in Shanghai was for just one night, after moving on from a semi-plush hotel for financial and social reasons (hostels can be good like that). The Koreans I shared a room with, however, avoided speech and I had to sleep diagonally because of the bed's length.

Here on campus my 'flat' is adequate, and better than my flat in Kuwait, despite the tiny kitchen (which I probably wont use much, however). Beneath me is a lake, a home to mosquitoes, who visited me uninvited the other night, encouraged by some foolish window opening. As usual, they didn't bite, either out of an exceptional and inexplicable courtesy, or becasue I taste bad. But the noise of their wings was, well, noticeable.

The DVD player works, which is pleasing. Have just seen 'Another Country' once again..Colin Firth's finest hour. Have you seen it? Cheap Chinese wine is roundly denounced, but I find it ok, while the most famous Chinese beer, tsingdao, is really German.

Most websites are unblocked, including blogger (though it didn't use to be), but Elberry's is temperamental and, tragically, will not oblige.


Selena Dreamy said...

Riveting, Jonathan, really, I enjoy imagining it all.

Mosquitoes?! So presumably the seasons are similar to here, or perhaps rather more temperate...?

Booty said...

I´m surprised to see you in China. Where next on your intercontinental exploration??? Keep up the good writing on your blog..

Jonathan said...

I wonder, Booty, why surprised that I should be here. But then sometimes I am surprised myself. And I still have to reckon with these unexpected feeelings of actually missing Kuwait, which I didn't expect at all.

It may be a passing phase of course. Part of the issue, it seems, is that possibilites for having an expat centred social life with non-teachers, people outside of work, are fewer. In Kuwait I went to a Church, a writers group and also gathered with various other business types for weekly meals. Here, I worry that stepping beyond the Campus may be tricky. The campus is also along way out of town.

Obviously I will leave if I significantly don't like it, but I will at least stay a year, I should expect (oh how indeterminacy assails me!)

What's your email Booty, by the way...?

Jonathan said...

So I hear, Selena, there is not much in the way of Spring and Summer. I'm told things will get very cold from November onwards. So much so that I may need to purchase an Oil heater to beef up the inadequate air con heating available. Apparently, it's a convention that the Chinese don't heat south of a certain line, and we just happen to be south of it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonny !

How r you ? how is ur life in china ? do u like it ? are u happy there? how is ur new job? Its me Emma from kuwait . TAKE CARE AND KEEP IN TOUCH .