Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shapeshifting: From Expat to "Repat"

"Repatriation", "Repat" ... it sounds like I'm trying to turn into something that I used to be.
( I don't believe that could ever be 100% possible, but it's an interesting term(s) ).

Today is the first day since being home that it feels like I've "stood still". I've "stopped".

After the initial 48 hrs of jet lag when I was first home ( a little over a week ago now) I went to Aunt Joan's for two nights and got my haircut ( for the first time in 6 months) and did a little shopping, then I spent Easter Weekend with Aunt Mary and some of my cousins out at her beach house in Westhampton, Long Island. Then yesterday I went to New York City for my first visit and spent the day/night taking a Zumba class that one friend taught and then a Hip Hop dance class that another friend was teaching and commuting on the train.

Today? I sat still. I practiced my Mandarin Chinese, I read, I watched tv, etc. etc.
I've spent the entire day in my pajamas.

( and it's a good thing, because after ONE day of TWO workouts that came after a whole year with very little working out,  I am SORE.)

but today was also the first day that I cried for my kids. The day that it all really sunk in.

With me sitting here all day steeping like a cup of tea, it was easy for thoughts to seep in.

I've been talking on QQ with my TA Metis and told her that I missed the kids. I've also been looking at the school blog- seeing the pictures - especially seeing Natali - in one picture in the blog especially- looking soooo terrified, scared, unsure, with Dona teaching the class the first day that I wasn't there - I wished I could pick Natali up and hug her -- ( and she would probably try to pull down my pants or pull up my shirt-- and giggle - because she's naughty and she wants all of my attention - she knows that she can GET my attention by being a little naughty.... lol.)

Metis told me that the kids have asked "How is Katy? Is she ever coming back?" ... and that just broke me today. That was it. Tears.

I told her to tell the kids that I WILL come back to visit, that my family in the USA missed me and I have to see and be with my family now. But that I love them and I think about them EVERYDAY. I hope to find a way to setup a video chat at some point with at least the kids (at least my PRE-K2 class) and me.

It's strange because it feels like I've only been away ( from the US) for a week. But I know that's not true. I am experiencing some "reverse culture shock" but it's not too "shocking" ... just different, and some of the things are kind of funny to notice. Here's a little list.

Things I Noticed Within The First 48-72 Hours Back In The USA 

1.  My mom talks a lot - sometimes to herself. assessing things, etc.. ( "Shhhhh. Let's enjoy the quiet." - me to Mom on the 2nd day I was back.)
2. The sky is SO BLUE here.
3. Pollen is here too ( coughing, mucous, allergies - did not happen at ALL when I was in China)
4. It feels like I've been away for a week rather than a year. Time FLEW!
5. Jet lag was more difficult coming from China to New York ( first 3 nights in NY - went to bed around 6:30-7pm, woke up around 4-5am)
6. I miss using chopsticks regularly.
7. I miss my kids.

I was LOST in Starbucks in NYC yesterday without the choice of my usual "Cafe Americano" that I'd get in China, I ordered a "Tall Medium Blend" ( not really knowing what the heck I just ordered???!!! ) however, when the barista said "One Tall Pike" - it registered and I knew what it was. BUT I took out a $10 bill when it was only $2. - ( in China it would be 21 RMB so I guess I thought $10 would be right.)

I love being around ASIAN people here. I want to know their stories- how long they've been in America. How and when their families came here ( although I have not asked any one person/random stranger directly yet, it's just a fascination that I've noticed). I went to Koreatown in NYC and got dumplings for lunch at Mandoo Bar yesterday. I was going to be in midtown for most of the day and didn't want to trek down to Chinatown, so Koreatown was a good option to cure my Asia withdrawal. ( I know that I will take a day and tour Chinatown and take pictures to post to QQ soon).

speaking of QQ.... since being home, I've taken pictures that I want to post to my QQ page (NOT to Facebook). Pictures of NYC and chopsticks and dumplings and the beach .... things that I want to share with my friends ( especially Lisa) in China. Usually when I think of sharing pictures, I think of FB. But now... it's a little different... it's changed.

These are just some things I've noticed/some things I've been doing. I've also been less interested in reading "The New York Daily News" - less interest in local news and more interested in "The Wall St. Journal"- international news. However, I watched 2 episodes of "Khloe and Lamar" on E! today as well as "Giuliana Rancic's E! True Hollywood Story" soooo... I guess I've still got a little sweet tooth, still got a taste for some fluffy US pop culture.

"What if the challenge isn't me getting her to want to/be able to come here..... what if it's that I would rather move/settle there? ( in Taiwan - and/or some city in Asia with a good sized GLBT population) "  -- this was a question that caused me a few minutes of legitimate heart palpitating anxiety last night. While I was waiting for dance class and feeling a little disconnected .... I wondered. BUT I sweat it out, let it go.  We'll deal with that, when it gets closer to reality ....

I think it's a different kind of "reverse culture shock" though, ( maybe a more mild version?) because there's a buffer to protect me from the full impact. Knowledge is ... safety. I know that it's a "vacation", a "trip" home here now. I'm "going back to that side" -- despite not being in the same area/school. I'll be "closer" and it's also exciting because Taiwan will be both "strange and new AND familiar" - new country, new people, similar language, similar food.

Sitting at the dinner table with mom and dad the past few nights,  I've PRAYED that Lisa finds a really good school/ good program in Guangzhou where she will take ENGLISH CLASSES and study hard and LEARN ENGLISH. I've also prayed for my kids. Tonight was the first night that I had tears ....I choked... the tea bag broke. But I will continue to pray for them every night.

as I told Metis, I think about them EVERYDAY.
and if thoughts can truly become things, I believe that I will see them again soon.

*ALSO -- I just got off my stomach ( ohhh the pain! - seriously- I think my body's going through it's own reverse culture shock here working out again ) to EDIT this to add .... that I AM HAPPY to SEE and BE with my FAMILY and FRIENDS here in NY .... it's just.... different. I'm taking my time, taking it all in, enjoying the quiet ....and working hard to keep learning about things ( immigration/language, etc.) and working for the future ..  I'm excited to do new things while I'm home here ( maybe tour the Statue of Liberty, possibly take a hot air balloon ride with Mom and Dad) I've been BLESSED by ALL of the souls who've touched my life. Truly. It's all love.

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