A year as a laowai — An overview of my adventure in China

Three years ago, I decided to take up a job abroad. I bought a last-minute one-way ticket to Hong Kong and told my friend to call Interpol if he didn’t hear from me the following day.

During my entire stay in China, I never called it home. I laughed at my roommate who called our apartment “our home.” I can still picture that one time I rhetorically asked him about it. Reflecting on that concept quite a while later, I accepted that I lived in China. And I am now confident to say that I survived her.

I didn’t have the usual employment arrangement where I would live in the city I work in for months. I already co-founded my technology company and got to go home to the Philippines about once a month. I’m an introvert. I can survive days with nobody else but my thoughts so I was hardly ever homesick.

My Chinese office is in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province–home of Foxconn, where your iPhone and laptops are made. Shenzhen used to be a sleepy fishing village until the Chinese government accelerated development 30 years ago. Now it is a big, mean city of 15 or so million people.

Not China. My first flight was a stopover at Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

The monthly six-hour commute to my real home became normal. The trip starts by leaving just an hour earlier and exchanged short goodbyes to colleagues. The routine is not so complicated: Take the train to the Hong Kong-Shenzhen border, cross the border, hop on to another train, transfer to the bus to the airport, board the last flight to Manila, and finally, take a taxi to my home in Makati.

Going back is just reverse and I arrive just in time for lunch. It really wasn’t a big deal as others who travelled regularly would loathe against. I love travelling, flying and airplanes in general. Plus, I get to see three cities along the way.

Whatever this part of life is called changed me and my perspective. It made me wonder about my own culture, my own language, where I came from. I got a wider look at this part of the world.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a long time. I had to stop talking too much about life in China before it annoyed everyone. This is my release and there are many, many stories for this little corner of the Internet.

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