Saturday, 27 May

How astonishing it is that everything here seems to have returned to normal so soon! None of the awful things I imagined on that empty plane actually happened: questioning by the security police at customs, military control of the airport, no bus services to the city centre, and so on. No, so far so good. People even looked peaceful and happy, in fact, happier than what I remembered from four years ago when I left.

A bus took us straight to the centre, without having to pass through road blocks. Immediately there were posters to be seen everywhere, faded or half torn: ‘Fight Martial Law!’, ‘Oppose Violence’, ‘Rise Up, Chinese!’, ‘Clean Away Corruption!’, ‘Punish the Profiteering of Privileged Officials!’ While I was waiting for E. to meet me at the airline building, a group of taxi and tricycle drivers, the ‘new rich’ of the economic reform, came up to me. They were far more numerous than their potential passengers. ‘No, thank you,’ I said, ‘I’m not that rich to spend my money like that.’ The oldest among them, a man in his fifties, replied: ‘Money is nothing. Can’t you see it isn’t the time to talk about money?’ Before I had a chance to feel ashamed, other young drivers started asking me how I and my foreign friends had reacted to the student demonstrations. When I told them that we all saw the April–May events as a great democratic movement to the glory of us Chinese, they all grew excited.

The first words E. said as he met me were: ‘You’ve missed the greatest scenes. You are too late.’ I was reminded of S.S. who had provided me with my ticket and said: ‘You Chinese are born in the right time and the right place. You’ll regret it for life if you aren’t able to take part in the revolution.’

It was 5.00 p.m. when we got home. Mother looked so much older. Lucky she no longer blamed me for this sudden decision to come back. But already E. was making a sign to me: ‘Let’s go out—if you don’t feel too tired after your long journey.’