Eye of the Chicken
A journal of Harbin, China

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Wow. The summer teachers arrive tomorrow. I'm filled with a total mix of overwhelming emotions about this . . . the chief one at the moment is melancholy, because their arrival signals the end of my Sabbatical Adventure; from here on out, it's Summer Program as Usual. Which means: If I want a long, meandering bike ride, it better be today. If I want to wander at all - go to a restaurant that's only got three tables, eat street food, swim again in the Songhua - it's gotta be today.

On the other hand, the arrival of my compatriots is going to shield me from a plethora of last-month blues. I'll be too busy for melancholy, too busy making new friends and directing traffic to notice that the time is slipping away. The past month has been a weird one because I've felt always on the verge of leaving, and it's been hard to lift myself off the current plateau; I've not had much oomph for studying Chinese, not had much of an urge to go outside my comfort zone, because why? there's only a month left. So my friends will derail that lassitude, anyway.

I'm worried about the sheer amount of energy that teaching is going to take - the May TESOL program really knocked the wind outta me and I expect the same from the next three and a half weeks. But I am over-the-top excited about seeing Rob, my friend from grad school, and getting to experience China with him. Rob has long been known among our grad school friends as The Perfect Party Guest, and I have the sense that he will also be The Perfect Traveling Companion - adaptable and helpful and cheerful. (I'm a little worried that we might get carried away with ourselves; gonna have to monitor that.)

But then again, I'm going to be sad to leave my Chinese friends. I know I'll be back next summer, but only for a short time (maybe 6 or 8 weeks). But I'm also ready to go home - to see my husband, to sleep in my own bed, to ride my bike through the uncrowded, unpolluted streets of my home town.

(Not ready to go back to work, though. Eeep.)

And I'm a little worried about making the transition. I know the US is going to seem mondo strange to me for a little while. I haven't learned to cook enough Chinese food to suit me; I think I'm going to feel quite deprived when I arrive home. (I'm planning to fill a suitcase with food to take home.) And my life here has been surreally stress-free; for example, I've had oodles and oodles of money because things are just a lot cheaper here than they are at home. The only bill I have to pay is my internet bill - which comes to $4.50 a month. Dinner at a restaurant costs anywhere from $1-$5. To replicate that $5 dinner at home, I'd have to spend about $20. This will take some getting used to . . . oh, and the absence of Chinese fruit is going to be a blow, too. (No more plum juice. Waaaaaaah!) But that's an entry in and of itself.

I'm working very, very hard to have a foot in two worlds, here - this, too, has been a fantasy of mine since forever. But as I get closer and closer to realizing that fantasy, I discover that its amazing, compelling landscape is composed of light AND shadows. If you have two "homes", you're constantly in the position to miss one of them. If you live in two places, you can be forever an outsider.

But the nice thing, the reassuring thing, the thing that makes all of this possible, is that within the walls of my own house, with my husband, I am always in the right place. No matter how much I come and go, no matter how odd I feel anywhere else, there (where he is) is always where I belong. And I am definitely looking forward to going home to him, my real home.

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