Journeys Through China

Nicole Leybourne is a blogger, model, photographer and world traveller; here she shares her thoughts and experiences living for months in China…

On this journey I tried freeing a monkey, tied to a leash, kept by a drunk man. I also fed this same monkey a banana. I rescued and adopted a baby cat and named her Oreo after calling her a him for the first three weeks and then thinking she was pregnant. All really rational thoughts. 

I spoke with a young lady about the Chinese educational system and how it starves creativity and imagination. I also spoke with a lady who tried to help me get in touch with a local newspaper so I could voice my opinion on the way animals are kept and treated in this country. And I saved a worm from the footpath.

I slept in the same room as a 17-year-old Russian who told me that murder was beautiful and that she wanted to undergo a sex change and call herself Max. I feared for my life and listened when she told me how she didn’t want to live past 30 because ageing was ugly. I even listened when she told me that she wanted to change into a male anime character with a bow tie and short hair because it was different, crazy and funny.

She listened to me when I told her that she would just be the same as something or someone else and would no longer be original or different after all. And I listened when she told me that, maybe, just maybe, I had convinced her of how truly beautiful and interesting she already was without having to change and how I’d done a better job than her mother. I cried in the bathroom soon after and wondered why I cared so much for another ‘strange’ soul who I only knew because we slept in the same bedroom.

I got home after dark from too many castings to remember. I ate sushi and too much fast food. I made a Polish friend, a Brazilian friend and a Latvian friend who lives off of lollies, is a qualified lawyer and a sensitive, beautiful human being. I also made a friend over the cafe sofa.

I ate my weight in chocolate pies and Oreos and forgot what raw food was. I drank from baby coconuts and ate their flesh like they were going out of fashion, along with grapes, nectarines, dragon fruit, lychees, jack fruits, mangosteens and bananas. I fell in love with wasabi almonds and out of love with bread. I found out now much I liked Chinese dates and how little I liked durian. I ran in the rain with a soul sister (who was serendipitously in the same city as me without either of us knowing it) and got soaked from head to toe. 

I supported the Brazilian soccer team at three in the morning with my two Brazilian friends, first from the comfort of our apartment with burnt popcorn and orange juice and after our internet had failed, from a bar filled with Chilean supporters. When they cheered I cheered and when they cried, I did too. 

I got food poisoning more times than I can remember and broke a thousand promises to myself to go vegetarian, just while I was here. I jumped off four, six, eight metre high diving boards and filmed on location for three 16-hour days in a row with two guys named Logical and Serg. 

I cried when I missed my sister’s and my mum’s birthdays and vowed never again. I lay in my bed for hours on end, lonely as hell, and swore off modelling forever more. I missed my soulmate and the way he would fix my soul. I missed everything ‘normal’ about our lives together. 

I lost parts of myself along the way, only to find more of me than what I began with. I was reminded, time and time again, about mental strength, not changing to fit another’s mould, the true definition of being exhausted, never to sell one’s morals and beliefs for money, and that beauty really does come from the deepest part of the soul, one’s being. 

I realised I’m no longer so much a little girl anymore, just by the conversations I was having and the new responsibilities I called my own, but despite this I will never be cynical and forever a child at heart. The most important lessons I’ve learned and that I’m continuing to learn each and every day, are about how much happiness is a state of mind (but how easy it is to let external factors affect it) and how grateful I am to just be alive, really, truly alive and kicking. All of these memories were made via the experiences that are entirely and selfishly mine and noone else’s.

But now it’s home time, the bell has rung and my lessons have ended, I’m leaving this worldly school for the winter vacation….


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