Well, it looks like this is it, for now, China. You and I have had a very interesting relationship from the moment I've gotten here. As always, when I'm about to leave a place I start to become pretty introspective. Well, or about to arrive at place as well. Well, okay, pretty much all the time but especially when I'm about to leave a place. It makes me think about how I got here, where I'm going, what I've learned. And that's why I came here, yeah? To learn.
And learn I did, about quite a bit. I pushed my boundaries quite far this time around. New Zealand was a walk in the park compared to living in the world's most populous and dynamic country as long as I have. Struggling to learn the language, integrate and understand. I didn't make it entirely but I did it well enough that I know now that I can live anywhere and do anything I choose to, really. This was an adventure and I will look back on this as a crowning achievement for the rest of my life.
One year, nine months, as of February 2011. Part of me wants to say "how time flies," but it actually feels like it went by more or less as it should have. Jinan, Shandong province, up north, and then Nanjing, Jiangsu province in central China. Bouncing around Shaanxi and Yunnan province, as well as Hong Kong and Taian…Such amazing cultural diversity! I think what strikes me most is just how a country with such a vast history views itself. The Chinese are proud, and rightfully so, of their place in human history and it was a pleasure to see and touch some of it, quite literally, since there's so much of it lying around! All of my children affected me as much as I did them and I have nothing but warmth in my soul for each and every one of them. Even the ones that gave me a headache after 12 hour workdays.
I can say that now that I'm done, anyways..
And so I return to the USA. For how long, who can say? Certainly not here; this musing is about China. The end of a chapter of my Livejournal and my life. I don't think I'll be returning anytime soon. Last time I left, I didn't write much about it. I was in a bad place and it felt more like an escape. This time, it feels like the transition to a new adventure. Perhaps that's why I came back; I knew deep down China and I never really got to say goodbye properly. We patched things up in a few months and now that we've embraced once last time it's time for us to see other people and new horizons, having left our individual marks on our spirits. Time will tell what sort of legacy this experience has left me with, but I know I made the right decision.
Will the travel bug infect me once more? Four months into a new job will I have my nose buried in a "X Language for Dummies" guide like I did in Texas? Maybe, but I hope not, to be honest. The not-quite monoculture of China's really made me appreciate just how special our American heritage is, and I'm hoping to put some quality time into my own culture for awhile. Asia's antiquity still fascinates me and I still dream of having a cup of coffee in an Istanbul cafe, photographing sailboats on the Mediterranean, sharing hookah and kebabs in Tehran or meditating in Varanasi, and I will do all of these things. But perhaps as short term vacations. I'm not sure if I want to keep livingout of a backpack but I don't wan to be entirely tied down, either. My priorities are shifting and I'm caught halfway out of my chrysalis. But I feel my wings spreading; my return to America is not a reversal back down to a comfortable, well-trodden path. Instead, I've come across a familiar-looking, yet overgrown staircase. There are brambles and vines that have grown in and obscure my view to the top. But I'll challenge them and see what else I find on this new path.