Well, I'm home, finally. It was 30+ hours of (uneventful) travel, followed by a lightning trip to the Straits.
And what a darned good idea THAT was, let me tell you. I get grumpy if I don't go to the bridge at least once a year. In Listening Ear
terms, I spent this summer "sitting on my feelings" but I was really, really, REALLY missing the Great Lakes this spring and summer. I spent several months telling people that I'd put the Straits of Mackinac next to any scenic spot in the world, and it would be just as pretty. And it will always be the prettiest spot on the planet, as far as I'm concerned, because I have a lifetime of memories layered onto the already spectacular scenery.
And now I have a few more. As I said over and over this weekend, going directly there was perfect. (My soul would have shredded for sure if it had landed in the house without a little warning . . . Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
has the definitive word on this, I think.)
So what have I noticed since being back? I couldn't wait to get back and notice things! In no particular order, here's the list:
- This country is overrun with children. You see lots of kids in Harbin, but the proportion is different; the child:adult ratio is at least 1:1, and probably more like 1:2 or 3. Here, I was amazed to see that practically every family we saw had 2 kids. Some had 3. In some ridiculous cases, we even saw 4. I mean, it looked like the kids were being herded around by the adults, like sheep being herded by border collies. It was a strange experience to see families and have these thoughts. When the adult-kid ratio is closer to 1:1, kids behave differently; therefore, the nature of being out in a public place is different.
- Americans (myself included, alas) are FAT.
- There's a real difference between being able to understand the conversation going on around you and not understanding the conversation going on around you. When I hit Mackinac (which is when I started understanding conversations; MSU has enrolled its largest freshman class in years, largely due to its Chinese students, all of whom are arriving this week - 40% of the passengers on the puddle-jumper from Chicago to Lansing were Chinese, but that's another story), and could hear the things being said, I felt a lot more responsible for knowing what was going on, and therefore a lot less free. I can't play the "foreigner card" here, and it's one I played often. Now it's missing from the deck, and it's a loss.
- One of the nice things about not understanding what was going on around me was that I had about zero contact with any discussions of social ills or family problems or practically anything negative at all. That was nice. I'm sure it distorted my view of Chinese culture, but at the same time it was really calming.
- I heard the damnedest things. I heard a thin teenaged girl tell her father, who asked her to refill his Big Gulp, "I can't do that! They'll think I'm fat!" I wondered what kind of body dysmorphia is going on here that this child thinks that simply carrying a soft drink could make people think she's fat. Has she looked in the mirror?
And on the home front:
- The house is subtly different. The back yard (into which I have not yet ventured) is overgrown. We have plants where we didn't have plants, and pictures have been replaced with other pictures. A DVD player materialized. The garage got cleaned.
- My stuff isn't necessarily where I left it. Also, I have a lot of stuff and it really needs to be sorted and reduced.
- I don't remember my routines. It's taking half a beat to remember where my keys go, how the toilet flushes (when I got up at night I kept pushing on the lid, because my Harbin toilet had its flushing mechanism in the lid).
- I got a new Android phone. WHeeeeeee, it's cool. I feel like Rip van Marcy, here; it feels like the android market has exploded in the last seven and a half months. (But maybe I just became aware of it.)
- We have a new wireless router that is three times faster than the old one. (As it happens we have two networks running simultaneously in the house; I'm a little fuzzy on the details about that.) I'm not even logged into the new one, and already it seems that it's blisteringly fast compared to the network I was on before.
Well, that's it for now. I better get to doing some of the other things on my list for today. I'm going to run out of day long before I run out of list, that's for sure. And tomorrow the new semester begins . . .