Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Art of Coming Home

It probably seems weird to most of you that an overseas worker like me would find it anything but thrilling to be back in America during the holiday season. What could be better, right? Christmas trees, presents, family gatherings, time with friends and all the other trappings that the season brings. In some respects this is what I have been dreaming about for the past 2 years of living in China...wanting to be home with my family for this blessed season. But in another respect, just being home has been a big adjustment. It's very overwhelming! Some call it re-entry shock. In October when I first arrived back in the States, I was keenly aware of how different everything was. It was similar to what I experienced when I first went to China and was barraged by the sights, sounds, and smells that were so different than I was accustomed to in the States. Since this is the first time I've been home in more than 2 years, I experienced that feeling of being a foreigner all over again...except in my own culture of origin. I was taken back by the vast amount of space in America and the lack of people to fill that space. Many times I felt as though I were walking through a virtual ghost town compared to the crazy overcrowded-ness of living in a city of 12 million. It was so quiet that I felt like I was in a library and had to whisper. American food is still amazing, the ease of which I can do things and get around is fabulous and I never have to struggle to find the words to express myself. People in America are generally super nice and polite. They open doors for you, say please and thank-you and would never think of telling you how fat you are or giving you unsolicited advise about how you should lose weight and be more healthy. On the other hand, being in America has reminded me of the things I haven't missed very much. Americans seem to be oblivious to almost everything except what's in their own little world. As opposed to the Chinese way of communal thinking, Americans are driven by individual desires and opinions...and the amount of waste and self indulgence I see is staggering. Maybe because I'm here during Christmas this is more pronounced, but I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around what it means to be "Home." Being in China has changed me forever. I'm different and I know it. Sometimes I feel like a human yoyo, up and down in my emotions, my thoughts about being here, my questions about when to return and what it will look like for me to be back home in China. I love being here, but I also miss my friends, my work, and the feeling that I am where I belong... at least for this season of my life. In spite of the fact that I also love my kids, family, my friends, the special people in my life, my freedom, and my country. It's like being caught between two worlds- and I love them both for different reasons. I know I'm not alone in these feelings. I'm sure a lot of military people, global workers, and foreign students have experienced this as well. Hopefully, I will continue to enjoy this time and fully appreciate this gift I've been given. Please remember me and all the others who aren't here and wish they were.