My name is Yolande Deane and I come from London in the UK, I have been living in China for ten years, and I have been living in the city of Harbin for eight of those ten years, and I teach English to young learners. The northeast of China has burrowed itself into my heart, this story is about how I settled in the ice city.
我叫 Yolande Deane，来自英国伦敦，在中国生活了十年。这十年中有八年生活在哈尔滨，教小朋友英语。中国的东北已经融进了我的心里，这个故事是关于我是如何在这座冰城定居的。
By 2012 I had five years teaching experience teaching English, I was broke and living at home with my parents. Being broke in any big city is not fun but being broke in one of the most expensive cities in the world, is beyond draining. I had credit card debt and an overdraft, in addition to monthly student loan payments, along with a dream to get to China. But how could I go to China with all that debt on my head?
Something told me to just go, and it would all work out – so I did. On October 12th, 2012, I boarded a flight to Guilin via Hong Kong, not knowing my unconscious compass was actually heading to northeast China!
似乎有人在呼唤我：去吧，一切都会变好的——所以我来到了中国。2012 年 10 月 12日，我登上了经香港飞往桂林的航班，当时的我并不知道，心里的指南针会指引我往东北飞去！
I ended up staying in a beautiful old house in a small village outside Guilin city with a bunch of younger teachers from an array of countries, I was there for about a month having random lessons about teaching, which I didn’t really need, but I enjoyed my time there. The woman who organised teaching placements, told me about her friend in the small city of Siping, whose school needed a teacher. For some strange reason, her warning me about the bitterly cold winters seemed to heighten my interest.
“It gets how cold?” I asked, unsure of what I was hearing.
“It can drop to -25 in the winter.” I remember she giggled as she told me.
“冬天会降到零下 25 度。”她笑着告诉我。
“Wow!” I said, it sounded like respite from the southern heat I had been enduring at that point. I arrived in Siping in November 2012, the temperature was already falling, and within a few days it was snowing. I lived there for two years, and just as my contract was nearing the end date, I went to visit Harbin, the capital of the neighbouring province of Heilongjiang.
“哇！”这消息给了我一丝喘息的机会，我再也不用忍受南方的高温了。2012 年 11 月，我抵达四平，当时气温已经下降，没过几天就下雪了。我在那里住了两年，合同快到期的时候，我造访了黑龙江的省会哈尔滨。
I remember hearing snippets of conversations about Harbin from the other teachers when I was in Guilin, I think it somehow snuck into my sub-conscious and mysteriously popped into my consciousness as it got closer to the end of my contract.
I remember arriving at Harbin station with my two colleagues just before the 2013 Chinese New Year, and it was fingertip numbing cold. I could tell Harbin was not a flashy city, but it just grabbed me in its tight north-eastern embrace, and dragged me into its intriguing history, I knew I was going to return.
Just before the new year we went to see the ice sculptures, which were lit up at night and looked amazing. After the new year, Walking Street (中央大街) was thronging with tourists admiring the old European style architecture and cobbled stones, reminders of the Russian influence. Sofia church, no longer a working church, but all the hallmarks of a Russian orthodox church was such a juxtaposition with typical high rise apartment buildings from the 1980’s, I knew I was going to return.
新年即将来临，我们参观了冰雕，这些冰雕晚上散发出炫丽的灯光，如同仙境一般。新年过后，中央大街挤满了游客，人们欣赏着古老的欧式建筑和鹅卵石，这些建筑宣示着，俄罗斯文化曾在这片土地开花。索菲亚教堂已失去了原来的功能，成为俄罗斯东正教的标志性建筑，与 80 年代建成的高层公寓楼形成了鲜明的对比。我一定会再来哈尔滨的。
Return is what I did in November 2014, it was one of my happiest moments, I did not hate Siping, Siping was also full of the dongbei people warmth and massive food portions, but I needed to go to a bigger city, in which I could grow as a teacher and meet new people. I needed to go to Harbin.
2014 年 11 月，我再度来到哈尔滨，那是我最快乐的时刻。我并不讨厌四平，四平也充满了热情的东北人和许多美食，但作为老师，我要去一个更大的城市，才能获得成长，才能认识新朋友。我要去哈尔滨。
This is how I have lived most of my life – I go where I am “pulled “and I trust it is heading in the general direction of where I need to be going, even if I am not always sure where that might be.
So why have I stayed in Harbin for eight years? A mixture of things, in terms of work I have developed my skills as a young learners ESL teacher, and I am grateful for the friends I have made, who I can rant and rave to when I am in a grumpy mood, especially if student have been driving me crazy that day! There also seems to be an honesty and a “what you see is what you get” with Harbiners, a generosity that could sometimes be lacking in a big city like London, where people are generally rushing to get somewhere. I have also started playing the ukulele, obviously I could have done that in London, but I didn’t, I did that here in Harbin, China, that means something to me. It really adds meaning to my time here.
I love that Harbin has seasons, summertime is short and sharp, and spring lasts possibly a couple weeks, and if you blink you will miss autumn. However, winter here suits me, I feel like a hedgehog getting ready for hibernation. The feeling of looking up into a blue sky with the sun shining, and venturing out, into a -20 degrees December day, gives me a jolt, but a feel-good jolt.
我喜欢四季分明的哈尔滨，夏季短暂而鲜明，春季可能持续几个星期，你一眨眼，就会错过秋季。然而，这里的冬天更适合我，我觉得自己像一只准备冬眠的刺猬。抬头看着蓝天白云，阳光普照，走出家门，进入零下 20 度的 12 月天，这种感觉让我心头一颤，但却是幸福的一颤。
I would rather be in a dry Harbin in -25 degrees than a damp London at -4, I know, it’s crazy. I think I am braver because of China; I have never seen myself as an adventurous person, I don’t want to climb mountains, or bungee jump or swim with sharks, but I am braver and more adventurous in my own way now, thanks to this ice city.
我宁愿呆在零下 25 度干冷的哈尔滨，也不愿呆在零下 4 度湿冷的伦敦。中国让我变得更加勇敢，我不是一个冒险家，我不想爬山，不想蹦极，不想与鲨鱼共舞，但是我正以自己的方式诠释勇敢的定义，以自己的行动诠释冒险的内涵，这要感谢这座冰城。