“I’m so glad today is over.” “Today was a China Day.” I got China’ed so hard.” Grumblings and musings amongst the teachers have lead to a group consensus: we all got China’ed today. “How does one become ‘China’ed?'” you might be asking yourself right now, and that’s wonderful question! (If you were a nine year-old Chinese boy/girl I’d high five you right now, thereby engaging and enthralling you whilst subconsciously making you want to participate in class discussions. Don’t mess with Teacher – he’ll put some voodoo mumbo jumbo on you, kids.”) In order to explain being China’ed, allow me to demonstrate the various levels of emotional responses via things that I have thought at various points either in the past week in Beijing or two years ago in Wuhan.
“This is so crazy, I can’t believe I’m in China right now. It’s so crowded, Pennsylvania has nothing on this. What kind of noodles are these? They’re so cheap! Everything’s just so alive right now, I want to live here forever.”
“I didn’t even know I could sweat in that area. What’s that smell? Ugh, if I have to look at one more noodle stand I’ll scream. Hopefully the internet won’t be down for the third day in a row so I can maybe catch that one in a million chance of getting in touch with someone. God Bless America.”
“Is that child defecating in the street? Oh, China, you scallywag!”
Erm, I don’t have anything for home. We discussed these stages in detail at our orientation meetings just to foreshadow the range of emotions we’d experience on our excursion. I’ve definitely cycled through the first three both during studying abroad and during our Beijing training. It’s sad that I’ve never hit that feeling of home, but I wouldn’t expect myself to. My time in Wuhan was only a six week program so that feeling of the temporary always lingered in the air, and I’m currently living out of a suitcase in a hotel so the settling in hasn’t quite hit yet. I’ll get there in due time, forcing anything isn’t going to change how I actually feel.
During our last meeting of the day, Beijing erupted. Fog and humidity wafted through the air the entire day. Air conditioners were the sole motivation for ambling through the sticky mess of the campus, desiring the comforting, artificially cooled environments our classrooms provided. But that sticky humidity brought a message forth upon us. A message to construct an ark, gather two of every animal, and wait out the end of the world to repopulate the world. Sheets of rain slammed into the windows, thunderclaps punched through the walls. By the time we were excused for the day, our path home was engulfed in a shin-high lake. Us teachers had no other recourse but to remove our shoes, roll up our teaching pants (Business casual is a habit, get like us.) and wade our way through the mile and a half hike back to our hotel barefoot.
So where am I with China right now? Wading in a river in the middle of a metropolis, watching cars and buses honk angrily at each other in attempts to weave in and out of the deep trenches of water in the street should read as a negative, but now that I’m back home, warm and dry, it’s funny. China is funny. I’ll have my moments where I’m annoyed, where I want to be back at home and know how to react. But the feeling passes, and the hilarity of the situation arises.
It may not be home yet, but I’d rather laugh in a madhouse than cry in a mansion any day.