After nearly a year of living and travelling outside of the US, it is time… for a return visit. Initially we had contemplated not coming home at all until our two years in China were up, but after a year away, we are ready to see our friends and loved ones and share in some special moments we’ve been missing.
So, what will it be like coming home? Truthfully, we have no idea what to expect. When I returned from Costa Rica and my travels throughout Latin America many years ago, reverse-culture-shock hit me really hard. My time abroad had been such a life-changing experience, full of questioning, soul-searching, and revamping my world view. I came back more aware, more understanding, and more resolute to make changes in my life and subsequently, in the world. But China… China has been different. I loved Latin America; I could speak the language, I loved the food, the music, the culture. I can’t necessarily say the same for China. Although things there are getting much easier, everyday life can still be a struggle.
So… what are we looking forward to the most? We cannot wait to see our families, and by families, I don’t just mean those who we are related to by blood; rather, those people who we love and who love us back unconditionally. We cannot wait to reconnect with family and friends, see new babies, hug old friends, talk, share stories, and laugh. We look forward to going back to our old church(es)- Revolution Church, St. Paul and St. Marks UCC- and seeing people there, being able to freely worship without fear of reprisal. Another thing we are excited about… MEXICAN food! Oh, Qingdao does not know what it’s missing! Nearly a year without Tex-Mex… my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
What will be strangest for us? Well, judging by the difference we’ve already seen just from going from China to South Korea, we would say that it is pretty strange to see people actually form a line and wait in it (like for stairs, elevators, trains, Starbucks…). Clothing and style will be very different. We may actually see people wearing patterns and colors that go together and we can probably say goodbye to matching couples outfits (as much as we may have been tempted, we have yet to succumb to this fashion statement). Understanding conversations around us has been strange, and although it may sound bad to admit, I don’t miss it so much. So much of what we hear is so insignificant in the scheme of things, and, quite frankly, sounds pretty ignorant. We are also ready to see some… diversity. Outside of our little expat group in Qingdao, we are two white people in a constant sea of Asians… I miss seeing color in my everyday existence; I really look forward to seeing people of all tribes and nations, tongues and languages back in the melting pot we call America. Another thing we cannot wait to do is breathe… CLEAN AIR!!! The air quality is so poor in China and although the spring brought better air, we’ve still had some bad days in the past week or two. We look forward to clear skies, high visibility and breathing unpolluted air. Getting behind the wheel again to drive will be an experience. After a year of watching absolute chaos and disregard for rules along the streets of Qingdao, it will be a challenge to remember the rules of the road. But I sure do miss the independence of driving! Having to find and take taxis or the bus everywhere sure has reminded us how blessed we are to have a car of our own, and with it, the freedom to go where we want, when we want. Another thing we are anticipating is getting on the internet… without using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). We can’t wait to have a normal speed, reliable internet connection to be able to do all the things that we like to do… Google, Gmail, Facebook, YouTube, or any of our favorite blog websites. Lastly, I was just reminded… we look forward to going to public places and using REAL toilets (no more “squatty potties”) and being able to throw our TP… IN the toilet! Ah… the little things we take for granted…
All that being said, we’d like to see as many of you as we possibly can while we’re back this summer. We’ll be in San Antonio from June 20-28 and again from July 11-17, and we’ll be in MN from June 28- July 11. Hope to see you soon!