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It’s official now. I’ve left Hangzhou, I’ve actually left the mainland by now – that chapter is finished and time to move on.

I don’t like putting everything down in lists, New Year’s resolutions etc, but people tend to ask for it, so let me sketch a short overall balance of this year:

University course – very disappointing. Life experience – priceless. Friends made – multiple. Close friends made – some.

What I Will Not Miss:

The noise. Horrible driving. Spitting. Men’s long fingernails. Slouching and exposed paunches (also men’s). Being stared at and talked about as if I was an animal in a zoo. The lack of good bread and dairy.

What I Will Miss:

Dining Chinese style, with everyone taking the food from the same bowls. Old people dancing on the streets in the evenings. Taiziwan Park in spring. Cycling everywhere. University cafeteria with 5 RMB sushi. Random things, like floating turtles (don’t ask). Playing board games with my friends.

Academically speaking, I don’t think it was the most profitable year of my life, but on the plus side, it gave me a lot of time to ponder things. Thanks to the people I’ve met there and on my travels, I am now inspired – and hopefully courageous enough – to make some big decisions which might end up in a radical change of my lifestyle and career (teenage rebellion late by about 10 years). I’m taking the plunge!

So in the spirit of nostalgia, for the last time, here’s a handful of photos from around Hangzhou – and we’re moving on!

Above and below: Hangzhou Dasha, the tallest building in the city and one of its landmarks.

West Lake, looking boundless (well, almost) and restive on a November morning.

Old trees and traditional-style cafes on Beishan Rd.

Sunset over the lake, with the Leifeng Pagoda in the distance.

And a place on a street corner I’ve never figured out. It looks like a Muslim shrine, with three graves inside and people praying there sometimes, but no one was ever able to explain exactly what it is. Still interesting as a reminder that China is much more diverse and complicated than we usually give it credit for, with a lot of minorities and religions mixing together at every step.