Tuesday, July 21, 2009

things i learned in china...

(i'm not sure if this is done yet, so check back for updates.)
  • it's not better or worse, it's just different.
  • i love chopsticks.
  • it's amazing what you can communicate with a shared vocabulary of 10 words.
  • taxicab and consumerist chinese - i can get home and i can buy things, what else do i really need?
  • people can get used to pretty much anything.
  • the rules and skills for bartering are highly relative to the location.
  • in houston, all good things came in strip malls. in china, they come on mobile carts.
  • grab/do it when you see it. it may be your only chance.
  • nature makes me happy deep down in the pit of my soul.
  • so do wide open spaces. but i think i already knew that.
  • see also: rock music.
  • in practice, buddhism can have way more rituals and deism than i ever realized.
  • there are like 4 different kinds of eggplant.
  • kindergarten is a wonderful place to start a teaching career, though i'm not sure i need to do it again.
  • i've still got some things to learn about teaching.
  • yoga is way better when you understand what the instructor is saying.
  • this is a stereotype, but in my experience, japanese kids are adorable.
  • 5-year-olds amaze and amuse me.
  • my stomach, unfortunately, is not made of iron.
  • life is always a trade-off. i love my adventures, but i hate missing everything at home.

home again, home again

so, i 've been back in america for a few weeks now and it seems like i should do some writing about how it feels to be back. mostly, it feels wonderful. it took a week to really feel it, but i'm very glad to be home right now. i kind of like this place. it's small and anything but metropolis, but i find some charm and comfort in that. i like being able to go watch old movies outside on a nice summer night. i appreciate the effort and talent that goes into the annual Pinewood Bowl production. and it's nice to once again be surrounded by people with whom i have a shared history. there's comfort in consistency.

that said, i am definitely seeing things with new eyes and finding that some things seem a bit different than when i left. and so, here is my list of things that seem strange or weird me out about being back in america (in no particular order):
  • driving. it actually feels completely natural to be driving again. what else would you do here? however, i've noticed some things about my driving, as well as that of everyone else's. americans are all about multi-tasking while they drive. it makes me kind of nervous to observe all of the things that people do while they are supposed to be watching the road. i'm just as guilty as anyone, but still. i can't believe we don't have more accidents.
  • speeding. i've always been one to drive fast. i've come to realize, though, that fast is relative. after never going more than 80kmph (about 50mph) for a year, i'm pretty content tooling around lincoln at 40mph. i'm also incredibly paranoid about getting pulled over. i have never been so worried about cops in my life as i was driving to and from houston last week. thank you, authoritarian china.
  • i miss chopsticks. american food is no good for chopsticks.
  • i will now eat just about anything. and kind of like it. this is partly due to the decreased sensitivity of tastebuds that comes with age. it is also related to a widening of my acceptable flavor palettes from living in multiple cultures. regardless, i've always identified kind of strongly with my food preferences and it's kind of weirding me out.
  • change. in shanghai, nothing stays the same. every time i walk down my street at least one business has begun renovations or closed or started selling something completely different. this happens literally overnight. in lincoln, nothing ever changes. with the exception of about 10 businesses, everything is just the way i left it. which is nice, in a way. i can always find the things i want. but it kind of freaks me out that a place can remain so stagnant. how does that happen?
  • dryers. this morning i thought about washing my sheets. then i thought, but where would i hang them to dry? will they be dry in time for bed? then i remembered that i am in america, a magical place where things dry in an hour.
  • when i see asian people, in addition to trying to figure out where they are from, i feel a sort of kindredness that i'm sure they don't share.
  • i can drink tap water, with ice - this is amazing! (amusingly, though, i generally prefer my water without ice now.)
  • diversity. i can't get over how different everyone looks. so many ethnicities in one place!
  • toilet paper. every bathroom has it. including the park. and it goes in the toilet. this is amazing! (it took almost a week for me to stop reflexively wanting to throw it in the trash can.)
  • americans are fat. i know that's kind of mean, but collectively, it's true. we are also way less healthy than i remembered. in my head, america was a utopia of healthy eating. in reality, while that is possible, we eat just as much shit as the chinese. a different kind of shit, but shit nonetheless.
  • i get kind of excited when i remember that i can be as frivolous as i want with my american gum because i can easily purchase more.
  • i'm surprised by how not strange it is to eat apple skins. i used to peel these?
  • target. a whole store full of clothes that i actually want to wear. every time i go i feel like a kid in a candy store. it's wonderful.
  • american beds are amazing. so incredibly soft and inviting.
  • sometimes i go to the grocery store and i don't know whether i recognize a particular brand from america or china. it's getting to be a little bit disconcerting.
  • hurrying. americans are constantly running to get somewhere. i noticed this first with my one american student. he kept getting in trouble for pushing in line as we walked down the hallway. when i asked him why he was pushing, he replied, "he's not going fast enough!" where are we going that is so important? and what are we missing along the way? partly it's the cops but partly it's a shift in perspective that has mitigated my need for speed.
  • and, finally, the sky. have you noticed lately how incredibly beautiful it is? fluffy white clouds...bright blue sky...stars! every time i look up i feel like i am in a fairy tale. this can't possibly be real. and yet it is. every ravishing square inch.

all in all, it feels mostly normal to be home. just with some new perspective.