Revisiting Old Expat Haunts: Returning to Zhuhai 珠海

Zhuhai (with thanks to my mom who took this picture in 2005)

The last time my feet touched Zhuhai, China was in 2009. That day, I stepped onto a ferry bound for Hong Kong and then onto England with wet eyes and a gloomy heart.

Last Saturday I stepped back off that same ferry and re-entered Zhuhai to celebrate an early Thanksgiving with old friends. For someone who likes to play nostalgia mind-games, it was a special treat. Many things remain identical to the day we left:

  • A cluster of half-constructed, concrete luxury villa skeletons still stand half-completed and occupied by a few squatters.
  • Lover’s Road remains as well-kept and greenly lush as ever. During my morning run along the seaside, I could trick myself into believing we’d never left.
  • Motorcycle taxi drivers still smoke, chat and wait for fares at the corner of Jiu Ba Jie and Lian’An Lu.
  • The aggressively hard Chinese-style foot massage is still a slice of heaven.

But newness has also crept in:

  • Where once there was only sea, there is now a growing man-made island that will one day connect Zhuhai and Macau with Hong Kong by a 50 kilometer bridge.
  • Eerily, our former house has been converted into an office. The entrance area where my daughter learned to walk and put on shoes, now holds a reception desk and is lit by fluorescent tube lighting.
  • A new Carrefour meant that our Thanksgiving hosts could buy the turkeys and a wide selection of exotic cheese right in Zhuhai, rather than crossing the border to Macau or traveling to Guangzhou.
  • The foot massage ladies might still guess my nationality wrong (Russian? Really?) but now shamelessly ask for tips.

It was a delight to re-trace old steps and especially to drink wine with wonderful friends. But I didn’t feel homesick for Zhuhai anymore. Seeing the place “in-the-flesh,” I realized that I’ve moved on. And so has Zhuhai. It can no longer be the static place of my memory ready to be dredged up during a comforting day-dreamy reminiscence.

And so, arriving by ferry back in Hong Kong late on Sunday evening, I felt at peace. I am happy to call this vibrant, efficient, international Chinese city my home (for now…).

Happy Thanksgiving!

15 responses to “Revisiting Old Expat Haunts: Returning to Zhuhai 珠海

  1. Expat Alien is so right – You can’t go home again! But I’m still kind of sad for you that your former house has been converted into an office! We still have our house back in the US. We’re trying to sell it, but we’re not having much luck (bought at the height of the market, stupid us). Part of me REALLY wants to get rid of it, but part of me will be sad to no longer have the house that I brought both my daughter’s home to from the hospital and where they learned to walk, talk, and all that good stuff. I suppose it really shouldn’t matter as long as I have the memories, but it does 🙂

    • We’re still hanging on to our house back in Seattle…seven years and counting of renting it out. We owned it before kids, we probably don’t want to move back into it, but we still love that house and still (stupidly) own it… So I know what you mean!

  2. Gorgeous photo! My compliments to your mother for taking it.

    I’m so jealous you have a Carrefour. They just shut both of the ones in Singapore down.

    • No Carrefour here in Hong Kong (and my the time it was built in Zhuhai I was long gone). But I can’t complain as HK is filled with (way too many) shopping options.

      Saw your post about the mold: I completely feel your pain.

  3. Hi Jen,

    Do you mean my old house when you took over our life?
    This is an awesome blog. So easy to remember and envision what you are talking about. Sometimes I do miss being over there.

    • Yes, that house exactly! It was a very strange sight indeed to see it converted into an office complete with a receptionist. Several of the other houses on that street have been as well.

      Glad you like the blog!

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