It's been a mixed sort of year.
It started off with me confined to my apartment in Baiyin with my leg in plaster, missing planned parties and a holiday in Shanghai. Not, it has to be said, my most optimistic hour. While that was happening it also became clear that I wouldn't be able, for various reasons, to continue in that city for another year. As that's where Teresa lives it still didn't raise my spirits. I would be there for another term and then have to move. So, in June, I moved to Yangshuo, which is about a thousand miles away. The intervening months were, as you might expect, a bittersweet time. We determined that we would try to maintain our relationship but both of us knew that such a long distance would make things difficult.
Down in Yangshuo the job and the school turned out to be pretty good and the city certainly has a lot of advantages (and a few disadvantages). I'm happy in my school and I have a great (if very cold) apartment. I have plenty of western friends here though virtually no Chinese ones – it's a town full of ex-pats. I get to go to bars and quizzes and even to perform my writing in front of people who speak the same language!
All that is good.
Not so good is that I have seen Teresa for a total of ten days in the last six months – just two visits. We talk a lot on the phone but it looked for a while as if we would split up – we actually agreed that we would – but somehow we are struggling on.
I'll be up to visit her in January before a brief trip back to the UK and then it's back here to run another teacher orientation course before starting the new term.
With less than a week to go to Christmas things are looking quite good for the next couple of months. I'll be out reading poetry on Tuesday night, at a Christmas buffet in one of the bars on Wednesday night, hosting a Christmas quiz on Christmas Day, chilling at a movie in my local bar on Friday night, back for more poetry the following Tuesday, at a half-prize closing down party in Demo bar on the day before New Years Eve, at a New Years party on New Years Eve and finishing school on 10th January to fly to Baiyin on 12th. The expat community here is nothing if not lively.
Fun as all that sounds. I'd still rather be having a quieter time in Baiyin. At least when I had my leg in plaster Teresa could come and visit me every day. I don't think I'll be able to move back to Baiyin as there isn't a job there for me, but I will probably try to get somewhere closer than here next year. I'll be looking into that as soon as I get back from England.
Anyway, as it's Christmas, it's time I wrote another festive greeting for everyone.
All My Christmases At Once
I've spent Christmas in the jungle, in the desert, up a mountain;
I've spent Christmas in the places even Santa doesn't go;
I've spent Christmas in a busy bar that overlooks the fountain
In the square in Cuzco, another Christmas without snow.
Kathmandu for Christmas Eve, and Prague for Christmas Day
I've spent a happy holiday wading up a stream
I've been so many places where you couldn't drive a sleigh
With just a single reindeer, never mind a whole damn team.
Christmas dinner has been turkey but I've also eaten rice
I've even eaten reindeer (though Rudolph doesn't know)
In Nepal I had goat curry, though it wasn't very nice,
And as I said before, another Christmas without snow.
I've spent Christmases with strangers and others with my friends
I've spent Christmases with family and some all be myself
I've been to workplace parties where everyone pretends
They haven't seen the mistletoe that's hanging on the shelf.
This Christmas I'm in China, although I've changed my city,
And I'm sending you this greeting from Yangshuo,
This year I'm spending Christmas in a place that's rather pretty,
Though as I said before, another Christmas without snow.