Monday, February 13, 2012

Like a 5 to 10 second delay ...

Ahhhh It's been almost a month since I've posted a blog entry. I swore to myself that I wouldn't let that happen... but the truth is, pulling my head out of the clouds and getting back "to the grind" has been more WORK! ( mental "work" anyway) than I bargained for.

But realistically, I don't have any more money to spend being away on vacation ... so if I want to get back to being on vacation, I have to get back to work ( or win the lottery) and so ... the circle continues. 

I've had a full week of teaching classes, I've done laundry and bought groceries. Dust bunnies are starting to inhabit the "top to bottom" clean apartment that I left ( and returned to!) when I went to Thailand. So the "old groove" is back in full swing. I've returned to China.

I come from New York ( a 1hr 40 min train from NYC -Dutchess County- Mid-Hudson Valley), I grew up with January/February snow/sleet/freezing rain. As a kid I spent winter mornings after a heavy snowfall listening to K104fm or Star 93.3fm  on the radio waiting to hear "Arlington Central School District - 2 hour delay" or Arlington Central School District- now CLOSED" and I loved it because they went down the list in alphabetical order and Arlington was always one of the first mentioned. (though OCCASIONALLY they read the list backwards - from Z-A ... to appease the antsy Wappingers Central School District kids I guess. ;) )

BUT  this January/February - after experiencing the warm ( not too humid, just NICE) weather of Northern Thailand- I've found myself craving more warm winter weather! I spent my vacation wearing short sleeves and ( until I broke them working in the "ele poo" pile) flip flops. I got suntanned ( not burned!). It was heaven. I want to write a lot - about vacation. I feel like I'll probably break the entry up into 3 parts - just because there is so many different things to write about.

But this entry I want to dedicate to something else. I want to talk about "what you miss" when you live abroad. As far as we've come with - internet access and SKYPE and news podcasts, and having VPN accounts to access Facebook and other blocked websites in China - there are always things that you will miss out on that are going on without you back at home. Big things. "Life Changing Things". 

When something big happens in the news like - "the US Presidental Election" for example- I like to be there in the moment. Watching CNN or MSNBC - hearing the opinions, seeing the images, watching the polls come in. Then to talk with my family or friends about what we watched, what we think, what we feel, etc. I don't get to do that here. I don't really know what the complete "cable" situation is like in China. The only tv channel that is broadcast in English and shows any US or British news/info is CCTV-9. Over the past few months I've put together a small list of things that I've "missed out on in the world". 

1.) Cheery and Pumpkin dying ( my cockatiel bird - 24 yrs old, and orange tabby cat - 21 yrs old) within a month of each other. Pumpkin in late April, Cheery in late May.

2.) Babies growing into toddlers. ( my little cousin Jackson comes to mind - he's turning 2 on Feb 17th. I haven't seen him in 10 months. So, big changes there.)

3.) Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding in England 

4.) The capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden

5.) Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage in New York

6.) The Death of Whitney Houston ( most recently - just two days ago)

7.) MOVIES - As far as "foreign (US) films" I've only seen "The Smurfs" and "The Green Lantern" here in China. I've heard that "Bridesmaids" is omgfunny/awesome/bestcomedyoftheyear!!! - ( and I guess I could download it but i LIKE the feeling of going TO the theater to see a movie before downloading it) but I don't think it was released here. So I'm behind on what's new.

I feel like, living abroad, living in China anyway, there will always be that "little disconnect". None of my friends here have talked about any of the "in the news" things that I listed above. Maybe it's not in "their news"? It's just... not on their minds for whatever reason. But for an expat like me, caring about these things, it's like the difference between a dialup internet connection and a high speed wireless connection. It kind of feels like you're receiving the information 5 minutes late. Like everyone else has already celebrated and/or grieved .... and you're just getting started. 

Luckily everyone I know and love in the US has their health (*knock on wood*) and is OK. Luckily, at this point in history we HAVE - SKYPE/email/Facebook to check in and make sure everyone is ok. When my father was graduating college, he wasn't so lucky. 

My grandfather and grandmother gave my father a trip to Europe for his college graduation present. He went all over - and I think at one point he even stayed with some family in Ireland. I don't know the full "itinerary" of his trip because I don't talk about it too much with him. I never asked him. But at the time, his father had cancer - leukemia - and while my father was in Europe - it got really bad and my grandfather died. My father never got the chance to say goodbye. At the time ( this was around 1968), they did not know where he was in Europe and could not locate him to tell him or bring him home. The family had the wake and funeral and they buried my grandfather before my father got the chance to come home and say goodbye. My father was technically his "only child" (though my father he has an older brother and sister and they are ALL family - my Uncle Stuart and Aunt Mary- but they were from my grandmother's first marriage - her first husband died very young- at 28 yrs old). I know that this, not being there, bothered my father and he grieved for a long time. I'm sure it felt cold and uncaring and I'm sure he had some anger toward his brother/sister/mother ... I know it bothered him ( because his first cousin, my cousin Maureen has told me, she's talked with him about it before). I remember when I would come home from college for Winter Break or Summer Break and then go back - my dad would ALWAYS cry ( my mom sometimes). I remember one time when I was leaving he was looking at me as if he was freezing the image of me in his mind, like god forbid - he would not see me again, or he would be gone when I came back. Safe to say now - we BOTH made it through my college years - and I've got a feeling that my Dad AND his brother and sister ALL have my grandmother's longevity genes - she lived to 99 - and I'm betting they ALL live to see 90 at least. 

But still, I don't want to ever be THAT "disconnected" or that behind on anything. You can make fun of me for updating my FB status everyday .... but I think it's a combination of my desire to flaunt/give the finger to the Chinese censors that I CAN connect ( despite the Chinese government's attempts to block it) and also reassurance for me that ... everyone on that side of the world is OK.

I am sure that I will have tears for a lot of different reasons when the wheels touchdown and I land at JFK in April. Grieving the death of Cheery and Pumpkin- my pets, happy and relieved to see my family, excited to see my friends, feeling a little scared and unsure - a little "reverse culture shock", grieving for/missing Lisa terribly who will still be here in China ( though I will have QQ on my computer to connect with her).

But I will re-adjust and remember and re-connect. I know it. I'll get back to eating "good cheese" that is not "Kraft Singles" and drinking coffee that is not "Nescafe" or "Starbucks" While also feeling confident in my Mandarin Chinese speaking, continuing to practice it at home in New York. In this way I will be helping to kind of "center" myself between my "two worlds" and also feeling MUCH more comfortable language-wise for my return to either China or Taiwan in June 2012 when I start my 2nd year of ESL teaching. 

I don't know if it would "be different" if I spent my first year teaching in China living in a big city - like Shanghai or Beijing. Would I see more "foreign- US- films"?, would I find/eat more swiss/mozzarella/cheddar cheese and a variety of breads? One year in China is barely scratching the surface.

and maybe ... the disconnect is good? maybe it gives me even more to look forward to/ask about when I go home?

(and speaking of movies, I definitely look forward to seeing BOTH "Titanic 3D" AND "The Hunger Games" in the movie THEATER when I get back to New York! They're both coming out around April/May 2012!)

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