Saying Goodbye

No one likes goodbyes. But, inevitably, we all will have to say goodbye to our friends and family. It was my time to say goodbye to China. Not just the country, but the teachers, classmates, and friends I made during my stay here. This would be a sad goodbye.

It was the last week of classes for us. All we had left were three finals: reading, listening, and speaking. I was excited to finish class for the year but sad to see my classmates for the last time. On Tuesday after the speaking final, some of us played badminton behind the school building. We played doubles for a while. Ivan and I against Zakhar and Anastasia. It was not my day for playing badminton, but it was still fun. Tae-woo and another Anastasia  joined us for couple games before we finished. I had planned to come back to the school before I left for Beijing but it was not to be. We parted ways, and I strolled to my Muslim restaurant for a quick bite before the bus ride to Huangdao. Zakhar and Anastasia would go back to Russia and pursue work there or possibly overseas. Tae-woo would apply for a school in Huangdao and continue studying Chinese. The other Anastasia would come back to Qingdao to study at Ocean University, and I would be back in America in less than a week. We had braved the Chinese language, a linguistic monolith, for one whole year, and now we had to part ways.

It was the last week to say goodbye to my Chinese friends. I had met Irving in the fall, and we had continued our friendship throughout the year. He was going to graduate school in New York, and I was his unofficial adviser on American culture and academia. I can’t say I felt terribly adequate to prepare him for American life, but studying for a Master’s myself did give me some know-how in the area. We met for lunch, discussed his trip to Beijing among other things, and then walked to a pedestrian-only shopping area. We intended to search for some Chinglish apparel for my brothers, but instead we just wandered around the shops, examining clothing that was out-of-fashion or too expensive. For students, it doesn’t take much to go beyond the affordable limit. As we walked back, I thought I should get one last picture with my friend. I asked a passerby to take a picture of us, which he did, and then we talked  a little more. I wished him good luck in America, and he wished me safe travels back home. I hope to see him again in the states, but you never know. I hope this goodbye was not the last.

I had met Joshua last fall at Qingdao Ligong Daxue. His English was excellent, unlike my atonal, disjointed Chinese. Before the spring semester began, he traveled to Qufu with me and Ivan. We also successfully climbed Tai-shan together and witnessed a cloudy sunrise. On Friday we met in Huangdao with two other Chinese friends. We walked along the bay and decided to go boating on a battery-powered vessel. I think it chugged along at a max. of 4mph. Joshua, the captain, was a little too adventurous and passed the buoy boundary in his drive to reach a nearby island. The dock worker was not too delighted about his adventuresome spirit and came over in his high-powered boat to direct us back to the confines of the buoys. Later we listened to a 3-person drum band rock it out for any interested spectator. After Joshua met some of his fellow graduates near the bay, we headed inland for lunch. The little restaurant was like an overheated, stifling sauna. At least the food was cheap. We finished our meal, and Joshua had to go back to school for some final duties. We embraced and parted. I wished him well in his new construction job.

It was my last day in Huangdao. I woke up at 6:30 am, grabbed my bags, and left the beloved mancave for Qingdao. One last bus trip into Qingdao. I stopped in Qingdao at the McDonald’s overlooking the sea. After downing some eggs and hash browns, I lugged my bags to the train station. As usual, there was a buzz of activity as people exited the station or queued for tickets. I waited for Ivan to come, but I didn’t know exactly what part of the station he would go to. As the clock ticked down to my departure, I was afraid I had missed him. After another scan of the station, I saw him near the ticket booth. I was relieved. We talked about school life and summer plans. He hoped to come back to China again but had to finish his studies in Russia first. As the minutes slowly counted down to my departure, we reminisced about the school year. It had been a long, tiring road, but an enjoyable one too. Before I knew it, the time had come to leave. We sadly parted. He told me not to cry, which I didn’t, but it wasn’t easy. I was going to Beijing and leaving behind my friends, some of whom I would never see again.

Goodbyes are neither easy nor fun, but we all experience them. The time had come for me to say goodbye to China, to Huangdao, to my teachers, and to my friends. Someday I hope to return, but for now I must say farewell to this land where ancient and modern coexist and an uncertain future overlooks a tumultuous past.

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