There’s no place like home

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
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140
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Trip End Jun 18, 2011


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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Well, after more than 10 months of traveling today is our final day. Tomorrow we fly home from Beijing via Heathrow to Manchester; all that's left for us to do is a 13 hour journey and then we will be back home. During our final day we needed to get some last minute souvenirs but we really struggled to get what we needed; after months of waiting until we get to Beijing to buy all our souvenirs, now that we are here it turns out that all the souvenirs are tatty, expensive and all around rubbish. I was starting to get really stressed because I wanted to get some special bits and pieces for my family, but I just couldn’t find anything. In the end I saw a really nice Chinese silk jacket that I wanted to buy for myself from a department store, however the sales assistant (who popped up next to me instantaneously) wanted 120 for it. Being in a department store I didn’t think I would be able to bargain for it but thought I would be cheeky and have a go anyway. Well it turns out that you can indeed bargain for items in Chinese department stores and I managed to get the jacket down from 120 to 20! My bargaining skills are clearly improving!

Once we had done all our shopping we suddenly realized that we had forgotten to visit one of the most important sights in Beijing; Tiananmen Square. We had been meaning to visit for a few days but always seemed to be putting it off. Tiananmen Square is the world’s biggest public square and can hold over 1 million people. However that’s not the real reason it is famous. In 1989, following weeks of peaceful protests against the Communist government, the Chinese military drove through the middle of Beijing in tanks and opened fire on the thousands of protesters. Most of protesters were university students and lecturers, they were unarmed and had been protesting peacefully and yet the military slaughtered them. Nobody knows how many people died because the Chinese government have never actually admitted to it happening (apparently all those students and lecturers just disappeared one day) but estimates range between several hundred to thousands of mortalities. Today Tiananmen Square is scrutinized by hundreds of security officers; you have to go through an x-ray machine before you enter and there are armed guards patrolling the grounds. Our guidebook recommends that you are on your best behavior while in the square and if you see a protest or anything similar do not take photos and make your way to the nearest exit as calmly as possible. With all this advice swimming around our heads it was very strange to find that Tiananmen Square was actually quite boring. It’s just a big public square that’s packed out with tourists, but there’s nothing to actually see or do. I guess the significance of going is in knowing what events have passed there previously; we had a little look around, took a few photos, quietly paid our respects and headed off.

When we first arrived in China all those many moons ago we bumped into a friend of ours in our hostel in Kunming; her name is Carol and we met her while working for ChildTrac in Phuket, Thailand. She has been traveling around Asia during the last few months and as well as being in Kunming at the same time as us, she is also in Beijing at the moment. So we’d arranged to spend our final afternoon with her. In all honesty I was a bit unsure about spending our last day with someone else; I thought I would have too many thoughts and emotions swimming around my head to be able to concentrate on talking to anyone. But it turned out to be the best possible thing we could have done. I can’t say thank you enough to Carol for giving us a fantastic last afternoon! We ended up sitting in the hostel bar drinking huge pitchers of beer, reminiscing, laughing, telling stories, crying (just a little bit), looking at each other’s photos, sharing tips and advice, taking about home, looking at our souvenirs and generally getting louder and louder. Sharing in Carol’s friendship was the perfect way to end our trip; it reminded us that no matter where we have been, no matter what experiences we have had, no matter how much money we have spent, it is always the people that matter most. Our trip is what it is because of the people we have met along the way, the special friendships with people like Carol that mean so much to us both. Whenever I think of that last day all I can remember is the sound of laughter.

That evening we grabbed some food from the supermarket (not a very exotic last meal, but extremely tasty none the less) and set to repacking our bags. We took every last item out of our backpacks, quite a mean feat when you think that we’ve been living out of our bags for as long as we can remember; we grown really attached to our backpacks during our trip, even though Tom’s broke after the first week. We love living out of backpacks, we feel like a pair of turtles carrying our houses and everything we own around on our backs and it really makes you appreciate just how little stuff you actually need to live comfortably… the amount of rubbish that we all keep in our houses to make us feel good about ourselves is very sad. Seeing all our traveling stuff laid out on the bed it was very strange knowing that after tomorrow we wouldn’t need all this anymore, but the traveling habit has bitten us badly and we couldn’t help but keep stupid things like elastic bands and empty carrier bags… because you just never know when you might need them on the road! We’ve both been feeling skeptical and a bit dubious about going home but now that the time was actually upon us and we had our bags packed and ready to go we couldn’t deny that we were starting to feel very excited. I don’t think there are enough words in the dictionary to describe how we felt that night; lost, sad, contemplative, excited, heartbroken, happy, nervous, confused. We didn’t sleep a wink all night and when the alarm clock went off at 4:30am we were already wide awake. After a quick breakfast and one last check of our bags we were off to the airport; walking along the Beijing streets we tried to take in every last nuance, smell and sight of China, but it felt like we were in a dream. I think we must have floated all the way to the airport in a daze; I hardly remember any of it.

The flight home was very smooth and relaxing; it passed us by in an instant though. In the blink of an eye we had gone from eating breakfast-noodles in Beijing to standing in Heathrow airport unable to think straight. By the time our flight to Manchester was called I was a really mess; I had the worst stomach cramps, I could hardly keep my eyes open, I felt like bursting into tears. It was all too much for me to take in. Our 35 minute flight to Manchester was one of the worst of this entire trip. We landed at Manchester and before we knew what was happening we had collected out bags and were making our way to the exit. On the other side of those doors our parents were waiting for us. We walked through the gate and there they were. And then it all came back to me; flying through the air on a zip line in the Thai jungle, eating curry soup in Malaysia, crying in Australia, laughing and feeling happy every single day. But when I saw my mum running towards me it was the greatest moment of the entire trip. I completely fell apart. I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to be back; I never wanted that hug to end.

After all the tears had been wiped away we put our backpacks on for the very last time and carried them to the car.

And that was it.

We were finally home.      




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Comments

rach on

OMG this had me in pieces ! and i LOVE the last two pix xxxx

Sue-Ellen on

I've just finished reading your blog and all I can say is thank-you for letting me be part of the travelling experiences. Not only did it keep me sane throughout the sleepless nights of lesson planning throughout my PGCE, but it was lovely to reminisce of our own travels, which now seem a million years ago :(
Thanks ;)

rach on

well what can i say ??? i have loved every single one off these blogs ,all your highs ,and all your lows , ive checked in everyday since you have been away (and you no i have too !)you have made me laugh and cry all in one blog sometimes ! i think your both amazing x and you have made me soooo proud to say that your my sister and brother in law , and you,ve traveled the world and seen sights that many off us can only dream off, but you brought those dreams alive and we were able to travel the world with you both . im so glad that your home safe and sound love you lots and lots , your big sister Rachel x

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