Since I’m not a student in Shanghai anymore, I’ll switch back to my old blog. A lot has changed in the past two weeks. I left the massive, bustling city of Shanghai right as the wet, cold winter was beginning to seep through my bones, despite the layers upon layers of scarves, jackets and hats I wore out and about. Erika and I joked that you would never know we grew up in the northeast US if you saw us shivering our way around Shanghai. It was kind of pathetic how much we complained about the cold. From the Pudong airport at midnight on the Friday before Christmas I boarded a China Eastern flight to Auckland, New Zealand, where I frantically rushed to finish my final papers before my family arrived the next day. Yup, it was fun trying to figure out how to get a charger that fit the outlet at 3 am on Saturday night.
Anyway, it was all worth it to see my family after four months away from home. I’m convinced I have the most b.a. dad ever because we rented an RV after flying to Christchurch and he commandeered that giant, unforgiving beast (only suitable description for it) across mountains, over tiny bridges, around steep, narrow, curving roads, over cliffs that dropped thousands of feet down to straight up ocean, and into the tiny parking spots at the RV parks. It was quite an adventure, breathtaking and exciting every minute. Also just wonderful and comfortable to be surrounded by family again, despite the bickering and arguing that is always bound to arise when with the ones you love the most. Thanks to my parents for being so patient and loving despite my constant mood swings.
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen, though I still have a lot of the world left to see. Didn’t see any hobbits bouncing around the shire though, so a little disappointed. Did watch the Lord of the Rings crammed with the family in front of the RV’s mini tv. So all in all, not a bad alternative.
I’m sure for those people who have lived abroad, it’s always a huge culture shock/adjustment moving back home or transitioning out of a place. For me it’s been super strange leaving China and not going home but going to a place like home (but different enough to be really weird). I’m sorry for the lack of good description there but all I can come up with is that it is weird to be around so many friendly English speakers but then driving on the other side of the road and not recognizing any store or brand names from home.
Now that I’ve been in Sydney a day, it’s even stranger of a transition. I just got to the Youth With a Mission base where I will be spending the next month teaching English to a group of 10th grade Korean boys. I came in on a bus service from the airport in the dark last night, not really knowing who was expecting me or what the base would look like. It’s super hot in Sydney now and the building I’m in is comfortable but pretty basic.
Because of the heat and the white walls and the plastic folding chairs and tables and the smell (smell can trigger memories like no other), I’m reminded of the Happy House in Haiti, where I haven’t been since 2012 but will never forget. But anyway, about teaching English for the next month. I feel really unqualified for this, and didn’t actually find out I was going to be teaching until a couple weeks ago. But it’s only a month and it’s not a paid position so hopefully they don’t expect a lot of me. I know it will be a learning experience but I have no clue what I’m doing. It’s weird because the area that I’m in, Glenorie, about an hour outside of the city, could be along the road from Pennington to Princeton, NJ or in a suburb of Chicago. Or even Maine. It’s wealthy, full of rolling hills, farms, gated communities, trees, and little shopping centers. I went shopping today for essentials and things at Target and then got snacks at a grocery store on the way back. It felt almost like I was back in Princeton but not quite, because again the cars drive on the other side and everything is a little different.
So the point is that a lot has changed in the past couple weeks and it’s always hard. I will never regret my amazing travel opportunities and experiences around the world, but I really do miss home. Nothing is quite the same. I’m finding that at the same time that I miss home, I also deeply miss Shanghai, with all its crazy aggressive drivers and metro chaos and spitting, smoking old men. A shoutout to my roommate Erika in Shanghai and all the friends old and new who made my time there memorable. And of course to my family who does more for me than is imaginable and our time in New Zealand together. These kind of people and things remind me everyday of who I am and what I can come back to. And I’m reminded also that at one time I felt nervous and anxious about being in Shanghai but I made friends and got used to it. So I’m praying and hoping that that will happen here too.
*image: drawing by Bruce Swann, Australia Inland Mission