In early 2011 I broke up with Zoey and I was depressed and I thought I should start Dating in China yet again. It didn’t go well. A full year with one person, despite the trying and failing at improprieties, and I was a tad out of practice.
A very significant chapter of my life had ended, and I knew it would take a lot of work to reach the next chapter of my life. I realized I needed a new start.
What did I really have in Shenzhen? Frankly, a bunch of shallow friendships and little job security. I liked my apartment and my general setup but I wasn’t tied down. If I wasn’t tied down, shouldn’t I take advantage and go somewhere new?
Many expats simply live out of their suitcases, but not me. The heaviest things I own are my books. I sell them, I give them away, but I always get new ones and I’m left with a big stack. That and my clothes and various knickknacks and toys, and it’s not as easy for to move to, say, Shanghai or Seoul or Bangkok as it is for that other kind of expat.
I made the decision to move to Guangzhou — also known as Canton — that third major city of China (a distant third, but third nonetheless). Why did I choose GZ? Several reasons. I liked the city. I planned to do more research of Guangdong Province for my writing projects. I even wanted to study Cantonese. Most of all, I wanted to get a van to pack up all my stuff and move somewhere only a few hours away because it’s easier.
I went there on a research trip and looked around and found a stable thing going, and I committed. Next there was the hassle of putting all my things in boxes, had a going-away bar-hopping party night with friends at the local lesbian bar, and 500 yuan later I moved. My Guangzhou year had begun.
I lived in an epically luxurious garden, in a giant two-bedroom apartment for me to enjoy all by myself. With a clubhouse next door complete with gym. I was to start over and be oh so productive.
All this relatively in the middle of nowhere. I explored, but there wasn’t a lot going on in my neighborhood. This was Panyu District, which is a suburban district. At first, it didn’t seem that far from downtown Tianhe by subway. Little did I know at the time, but for the following year I would constantly hear “You live so far away” and it would really put a hamper on my social activity. I lived in the distant suburbs, not the city proper.
And on top of that, for the first few months I constantly went back to Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Every other weekend there was something to do. It was exhausting. Perhaps I didn’t get a good start and didn’t forge the strong relationships I needed.
Bit by bit, I did build up something there. I enjoyed the art scene, the music scene, starting making friends,and learned all I could learn about the overwhelming giant mega-city of Guangzhou.
Yet, for that entire year I had no girlfriend. I wanted a girlfriend, I like having a girlfriend. I’m not quite sure why, but I could never find anything long-term. I tried, I rejected, I was rejected. Never seemed to work out.
Oh, I dated. My how I dated. In the basest sense of the word, I “upped my numbers” as some guys might say. Not too much asshole I hope. I met girls and met more girls and some of them weren’t girlfriend material and some of them were girlfriend materials and the ones who were girlfriend material kept rejecting me.
I got extremely into Internet dating. Pof.com, gzstuff.com. No luck on Okcupid. I met an American. I met more. Quite a few Koreans. (Panyu is the K-town of GZ you should know.) I made mistakes, as I usually do, and I traveled to Thailand with a girl.
In the end, it was an interesting year. And ultimately I decided to come back to Shenzhen because I like it better. It suits me somehow. I learned a lot in Guangzhou, a lot about myself and a lot about the surrounding area. I guess it was too big for me, everything was so spread out. Shenzhen is still a huge city (bigger than NY), but far more maneagable. I know my way around.
If you ever come to this part of the world, and you ask around, you might find a certain pattern. Guangzhou people prefer Guangzhou and hate Shenzhen. While Shenzheners don’t like Guangzhou. It was too late; I was indoctrinated into Shenzhen and that’s the place I’m used to/the place I like. Don’t get me wrong, Guangzhou has histor and culture and a bigger scene and it’s cosmopolitan and a great place to live, but I like living next to Hong Kong and not getting lost.
Really, no regrets. Okay that’s not totally true, let me rephrase: no big regrets. I do have some small-to-medium sized regrets. I look forward to writing all about those.
In the coming posts I will be focusing on my Guangzhou year. A lot of stories that year. The girls. The travel. The hookups. The arguments. The rejections. The learning process.