It feels very fitting that my fifth short story collection, Challenged in China, has been the biggest test to date of my so-called writing skills. My first year in in The Big Filthy was a culture shock like no other, an experience that made all my previous travels seem like a piece of cake in comparison. I kept an informal blog that year for family and friends, so I had a wealth of notes, thoughts, photos and emails to draw on. At a whopping eighteen chapters, this has also been my longest set of tales by quite some distance.
Retrospectively, I now look back and realise that I fell in love with China over those twelve months, even if it was a complicated and dysfunctional love-hate affair that I can’t fully clarify for myself, let alone other people. Once again the process of putting the stories out there has been a wonderful experience. It’s enabled me to re-live an mazing period of travel, not to mention some great times in the definitive relationship of my life so far. Only now, eight years later, am I able to reminisce with a sense of melancholia-free fondness. It really is true what they say about time being the ultimate healer.
Challenged in China also helped me to reconnect with lost friends, such as the tremendous Richard Colley, who I caught up with one afternoon over a warm, laughter-filled Skype call from Washington DC to Malaga. And the result of our long overdue reunion resulted in my brother getting a unique behind the scenes tour of DC’s senate offices, thanks again Richard! It’s stuff like this that really makes this blogging malarkey worthwhile. The stories have also helped me make some new friends; people who I feel I’ve known all my life and who I hope to meet in the near future. So thanks a lot Olivia from Beijing, Parry from Chengdu and Liu from Xian, I hope to see you all soon!
I feel like I need a break from storytelling for a bit. The next segment in the chronological timeline will cover my five years in The Netherlands, but I’m not even going to think about it until after the summer. In the meantime I’ll continue to develop my Top 5 Photo articles and chip away at my movie reviews, a project so painfully slow it makes The Stone Roses second album seem like quick work.