OK, I hope I didn’t scare you off (too much) with the last entry. There are many ancillary benefits to moving abroad. One is this: the further/longer/more you travel, the better you realize why it’s convenient to live in your home country, because you notice how many (working) things you take for granted, such as pure air and water, access to electricity, relatively fast and quality healthcare, a relatively objective media, public transport, and available food. Obviously some things work well and even better than others depending on your location and home country. This is why you need to travel to as many different locations as possible to get the whole picture. 😀
You need to be prepared with good explanations for your travel destination choices, though. When you are about to go on a three-week backpacking trip to Ouagadougou or Ngorongoro, there generally is more confusion about “why anyone would go there”, as opposed to some tourist traps such as Paris or Rome, for example. There’s an easy answer to that question: because in tourist traps, you only see, hear and eat what the tour operators want you to see, hear and eat, and you also get to pay ridiculous amounts of money for looking at buildings, plants and a copious amount of other people (usually taking photographs or eating) which you can look up on Google while lying in bed at home. It’s a better idea to support small local businesses than to give away your money to ever-growing big companies, even if they’re slightly outside of your comfort zone. I’m not saying that tourism itself is bad: it’s bad when it’s overdone. Package tours can be a good idea, especially when travelling to a country where you’d need to burden yourself with language practice, safety precautions, and so on, if you were to travel by yourself. I will post a separate entry on travel authenticity and some tips for achieving that on the DIY page. I will post packing tips as well. The most important one: Avoid suitcases like the plague. Use a good backpack instead. A suitcase compared to a backpack will be a) inconvenient to carry b) taking up a lot of space c) difficult to manage in a crowd and d) you can’t have your hands free. I will use my old reliable Haglöfs 70-litre backpack.
That’s enough ranting for one day. 😀 My intention was to tell you about some funny events relating to my departure the upcoming week. One of my good friends gave me an hourglass as a farewell gift. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten something that cool!!! An hourglass! (Well, perhaps at some point!) You certainly are a special person!
A lovely philosophical farewell letter. Is 30 minutes in China as much as 30 minutes in Helsingfors?
Funny moments took place with another childhood friend of mine, when we had a farewell movie night during the weekend. I was the one picking up the tickets, since I arrived before her. They were reserved on her name, and I got an idea. I would pretend to be her, so we wouldn’t have to queue. For five minutes I experienced what it was like to be (her name and surname). The cashier man didn’t suspect anything! It’s actually quite exciting to take on a false identity for a while! 😀 The night before, when I was on my way to my grandparents’ place, I missed my tram stop by three. I was captivated by two Mandarin-speaking guys on their way home (apparently they live here in Finland). I was next to them, not paying them any attention, until I suddenly realised I could understand what they were saying! “I’d like to travel to Central Europe.” “I didn’t know you had that kind of money!” “No, I don’t… But you can pay for me! Right?” It was like learning to read again! (Though I have to confess, it must have looked a bit strange: an almost-empty tram, with two Chinese guys finding themselves right next to a wide-eyed Finn cocking her ears). The same thing happened when I taught myself to read written Chinese. You’ve been looking at the funny little drawings for weeks, and suddenly, unexpectedly the words start to live and tell their stories in front of you. It’s an amazing experience, as I can imagine (and remember) it is for a small girl or boy learning to read for the first time.
This will probably be one of the last entries I’m posting while still in Finland. I got the admission registering info and the campus map in a letter this week. The campus is huge (there are three bus lines serving the campus area only) and there are several Chinese, Western, and Muslim canteens. For my Muslim friends: if you are considering China as an option for studies, Wuhan University takes your dietary requirements into consideration. It always seems that the person travelling will never be as excited or nervous as their friends and family, until they’re actually sitting on the plane. When I talked to my family members, their responses to about 80% of everything I said was “Exciting! This is so exciting. Did I mention this is exciting?” I’m writing this at my grandparents’ place, and I’m going to go and see my friends and parents for the last time over the weekend. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? (As a mitigating factor, I already have seven people who have informed me that they have reserved one or two weeks to be with me in China. I won’t have the time to become homesick.)