Ahhh, and so begins the bittersweet arrival back at home after the euphoric high of vacation. It all seems so exotic compared to the bleak winter here- the warmth of the sun, the tropical plants and vibrant flowers, the beaches, and, quite simply, the adventure of it all. We were able to speak English and be understood, the people were extremely warm and friendly, the children always smiled and waved. We ate delicious food while we were away- Thai food with all of its bold flavors and Cambodian food and Laos food and French food and American food… the list goes on… anything but Chinese food. Transportation was cheap and easy. Everywhere you went there was a tuk-tuk offering his services to take us anywhere we needed to go. Our vacation was the perfect blend of wildlife, nature, history and relaxation. It kept us on a constant adventure-seeking high as we drank in the sights, smells, and tastes around us.
And then- it was back to reality.
At first it was kind of nice to be back in our “own” bed, at our “home” in Qingdao. It didn’t even bother me that our taxi from the airport totally cheated us on the price to get home at midnight. But that “nice” feeling didn’t last long. As soon as we woke up and realized that we had nothing in the house to eat, we decided to go to the grocery store. After layering up for the cold and donning our ever-stylish “pollution masks,” we set out down the hill to catch a cab to “Lida,” the nearest grocery store. Twenty-five minutes later, standing in the thick, gross smog, and we’d already been turned down by one cab and beat to a few others by the locals. We could have walked there by now. The bitterness and resentment towards China began to fester. The longer we waited, the more it grew. The incessant honking, the fishy smell, the cold-faced people who won’t stop staring all started to get to me. Finally we caught a cab and things were okay again, until he didn’t understand where we wanted to go. Come on now, we go here ALL the time, the name is not difficult to say or to understand, yet when the cabbie tried to take us down Donghai road, we had to remind ourselves that still, we are not easily understood here. Finally we arrived and by that point were too hungry to grocery shop with an objective mind. So we went to a dumpling place that we’d visited once before, sure that we could get what we needed and get on with our afternoon. We had a horrible time trying to order and even getting some water to drink. And this time it wasn’t because we weren’t understood, it was just because they were in no hurry to take care of us. It was our emotional breaking point. “I HATE China!” was raging in my mind as the more grounded part of my brain argued that this is just the way things are here. I told myself to be positive but it was even harder when I looked across at Trent who clearly shared my exhaustion and exasperation. Hours later when we finally arrived back home, the questions in my mind were raging… Why do things here have to be so difficult? Why do things have to take SO long to accomplish? Why is the food so steeped in grease? Why won’t “Weebly” work when I’m trying to upload stuff for school? Why can’t we find a movie we want to watch on yuku? Why, why, why? EVERYTHING here in the past two days has been a trial. The only comforts have been reuniting with friends and hearing that their adjustments back have been equally hard, even for those who love China, and who have been here for many years. I think that China is just a hard place to get used to. It still remains an anomaly in my own mind, but yet it is the place we have been called to for the next year and a half. So here’s to doing my best to have a good attitude about going back to school tomorrow, about getting through these next few weeks until we can get out of here again. Here’s to trying to love China, despite its inconveniences, annoyances, and unrelenting smog. Here’s to adjusting back.