I’ve debated whether or not to do a “recap” post. But life didn’t end when we got home and I feel like in most adventure stories people end the story on a climax and never talk about the trip back down. Because the trip back down doesn’t make a good story, but it’s real life and as important as the trip up. So feel free to skip right past this post but if you want to know a little bit about life on the other side of the climax then read on. I’m warning you, it’s very long and wordy!
(I brought back some China mold in my toothbrush.)
The people from my school talked about experiencing worse culture shock coming back to America than they did upon arriving in China. I was expecting to be overwhelmed by understanding all the ads and commercials around me or from being in such a “modern” place. But that was not at all hard to adjust to. The real culture shock was that for the first time I had something else to compare my country to and I got to view my country and culture and my personal way of life differently and in some ways I was shocked at how I felt about it. I don’t know what life post-China was like for my classmates. I can only share my experience. These are some of the things that I noticed being strange or upsetting to me when I got back:
3 days after getting back to the States I almost said “ni hao” to my cashier at the grocery store without thinking about it. I had become so accustomed to trying to speak Chinese whenever I could and I realized I no longer needed to. It made me sad.
Crazy drivers don’t freak me out as much anymore after being a passenger in China. That may be a bad thing.
When I got home I felt bored not living out of a suitcase and traveling. The idea of staying put in a place so familiar seemed so uninteresting and very depressing. I guess that was to be expected.
I felt like life was more “real” in China than in America. I think it was because we had no access to facebook and little internet in general. Most of my interactions took place face-to-face with people-not through wall-posts or phonecalls. I spent most of my days working with my hands or exploring a new place. I was mentally stimulated all the time. And when there was “nothing to do” I just enjoyed the quiet. I didn’t have music playing all the time or a TV on in the background for distraction. I just was quiet and thought about things and wrote things down. I felt like China had more of a “what you see is what you get” feel to it. Jingdezhen was not lovely–it was dirty and old and rugged. I felt like America was more fake–a lot of interaction and “relationships” were played out through social networking sites and a lot of time was spent in front of a computer or TV. Towns are much prettier and modern here but there is less community and interaction. I was disappointed. Life wasn’t as comfortable in China, but I liked it. The only modern convenience I really missed was a clothes dryer. And a working bathroom light.
I was not expecting to feel so sad about coming home. I missed and still miss the autonomy and independence and adventure I felt and experienced while there. When people I knew would see me in passing and say, “hey, how was China?” I hardly knew what to say. How do you sum up 3.5 months of your life in one sentence? Should I say, “it was great!”? No. Not all of it was great. Parts of it were. Parts of it were not great. Part of me didn’t even want to talk about China for awhile. It was too much to think through and every time I thought about it I got all nostalgic and emotional. I got homesick for China and still do sometimes. I miss the studio and the people who worked at the studio and Sagger. I miss Jingdezhen. Geez, I even miss the cats fighting in the dorm hallways at night. 🙂 I wish I could have all the things I love about China and America together at the same time, but I can’t.
I came home and had jet lag and had a hard time re-connecting to my family and friends in some ways because I had so little communication with them while I was in China. I mentioned before that those relationships pick up where they left off, but 3 months is a long time to not really know what is going on with your family and friends. When I first got back it took awhile to start to catch up with everyone. It was lonely.
Not everything in China was rosy. I got homesick. I got discouraged with my work and with myself. I quickly saw a lot of flaws and problems with myself that I want/ed to change. I know I didn’t handle every difficult situation I encountered in a Christian manner. I said and did and thought things I regretted and I felt terrible because of it. It took me a long time to get over that after I got home.
But I learned a lot. I learned a lot about another country and another way of life. I learned a little bit of a foreign language. I know way more mandarin that Spanish (I really only knew like 3 phrases in Spanish before I went though so maybe that doesn’t count for much?) and I am going to take a Chinese language class this fall. I learned a lot about ceramics. I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with God. I learned that his promise to “never leave me nor forsake me” is absolutely true. I learned that I need God so much. All the time.
And while this semester at home in the USA was difficult and had a lot of upheavals, things were good too. I got to see my family again. I had a fun time living with my roommates and having an apartment at school (somehow I luck out in the roommate department…all my roommates have been great). I got to know people at school better. I liked my classes and my teachers. I got to go back to my church and Bible studies which I missed greatly while I was away.
So that is an idea of what life post-China has been like. It’s been good and difficult. I don’t want to say that difficult times are bad times because I think that those times are when we experience growth and maturity. So overall I would say that the whole experience–the trip and the semester at home–was beautiful, difficult and exhausting. I’m now so glad that I went to China and I’m glad that I’m home. I’m on the other side of the climax and life has evened out again. I’m looking forward to the next adventure life throws my way and I’m grateful that I can look back and remember my time in China and the semester at home.
If you made it all the way through that then you deserve a reward! Your reward is I’m going to stop writing now. Thanks for letting me get all that out.