After a few quiet years we are again walking borders, starting with the one closest to home. The high speed train between Hong Kong and the rest of China, which had only opened shortly prior, was stopped for most of the pandemic. Hong Kong’s gradual return as a transit hub has been well-documented and slow. For us, the last border restriction dropped when China once again began honoring visas issued before 2020. After three years, our visas worked and our jobs could send us across the border to the north.
With Wechat pay, electronic train tickets, passport scans, health declarations, and yes, those stupid paper forms, we once more made our way to a place both more foreign and more comfortable. Foreign, in that it’s been years since our last visit. Comfortable because we’ve spent years on that side of the border, and we’re glad to be able to speak Mandarin once more.
It’s easy, to walk borders, with the right passports, with the right reasons. It’s easy also to forget how impermeable these man-made barriers can be. I hope to forget. I hope that walking the border to Shenzhen once again becomes so commonplace that I need more passport pages, that I no longer recall which trip was which. I suspect it will take a while. Partially because our jobs, both gained in the pandemic, don’t require that kind of back and forth. How could they? Partially, though, because our minds are not yet ready for it, not yet quite returned to who we used to be.
No surprise, this. Healing takes a long time. Half as long as the injury, say some. A couple of years.
We travel now almost as much as before.
And yet we are not the same. We move, but each move is greeted with a sigh of surprise when complete, rather than the expectation that this is how things work. We do not yet take the motion for granted. I guess we will, one day. Eventually, we will no longer be shocked to be out and about in the world. I hope.
For now, though, I am happy, walking the Futian high speed rail station, having coffee, checking out bike share programs. I’m happy to have meetings, to be offered Chang soda water instead of Watsons. Costa coffee bottles instead of Nescafe. There has been a lot of change here, in Shenzhen, I think. There’s been a lot of change everywhere. Who did we used to be?