How can you learn to appreciate your home country? Go live somewhere else for a year. Coming back to all you know and are used to will seem like sweet bliss.
On exiting our plane from Beijing, we were met by the Manchurian accent of the border police; ah, to converse in English again! Entering the airport toilets were disturbingly exciting – no squatting for me.
But after that, our first day back in the UK was mainly spent sleeping. On the second day, we visited the supermarket. I marvelled at the wonders in the gluten free or “free from” aisle. After that we made a bee line for the newspaper stand, picking up a Private Eye and a newspaper. God, how I’d missed satire and an independent press.
I remember one of my students timidly asking me if British food really was as bad as everyone said. It made me laugh. Our year in China had been spent eating rice and Sichuan spicy pepper. On our third day home we had fish and chips (well, onion rings and chips for me). On day four, we cooked a roast dinner (a nut roast to be precise) and on day five we headed to our local pub for a pint.
On day ten, Jonny organised a surprise trip to the Yorkshire dales and we walked around the beautiful English countryside in the un-English tropical heat that had descended on the UK. Our walks led us up sheep-ridden hills to the top of desolate moors, back down through fields full of buttercups into small villages comprised of grey stone cottages and cafes. Evenings were spent resting our legs and eating pub food.
On the first day of our trip, we took a small walk through the countryside surrounding the village we were staying in. Upon reaching a river, Jonny pulled me into the shade of a nearby tree and asked me to marry him. The Yorkshire Dales are a place of significance to Jonny – his Grandfather visited the dales as a young man and was taken by the sublime countryside. Shortly after, he decided to move here with Jonny’s Grandmother. If this hadn’t have happened, his Mother wouldn’t have been born here, she wouldn’t have met Jonny’s Dad and Jonny would never had met me.
Looking out across the dales during our walks, I couldn’t help but see why this small part of the world had appealed to Jonny’s Grandfather so much, and for the first time ever, I felt that this could be a place in which I could eventually settle down.
But, of course, not right now. However much I missed the UK during this last year, I can’t say I’ve regretted taking up our Chinese TEFL adventure, organising escapades and dragging a willing Jonny along with me. Soon to come we will have more Chinese adventures, to be followed by further traipsing across the earth. There is too much that I need to see before we can even consider settling down just yet.