I made a short 2 week trip back to the US this past summer. It was good to see everyone, but a little strange too. On my second day back, I went to a party and realized my cousin was starting middle school when I left for Switzerland as a college freshman and I was heading into my 3rd year in China and had no memory of what happened between the start of his middle school years and the start of his college years. Frozen food aisles are as wild to me as ever, sure you can find frozen food in Europe and in China but not on quite the same scale. And gallons. I haven't seen a gallon of milk in forever, so it was weird to go shopping with a friend and stare at gallons of red food coloring and vanilla flavoring. Went to breakfast that day too and blanked when the waitress asked me "What kind?" after I told her I wanted toast as a side for my order. My friend reminded me that there are different kinds of bread and things were quickly resolved. Toast in America, toast in the Italian speaking world, toast in China...a slice of hot bread with butter, a ham and cheese sandwich, or soft sweet bread. How lucky I am to hold so many worlds inside me, though it leaves me at a loss sometimes. Overall, it was good. Friends, family, a chance to check in on where people's lives have taken them. I was disappointed that my phone, not having been upgraded in about 6 years, was unable to download anything and I couldn't join the PokemonGo fun but I did get people to marvel over a phone with a slide out keyboard and the realization that Blockbuster once released an app and for some reason I downloaded it.
As happy as I was to see everyone, it was a relief to catch up with another WorldTeach friend. It's hard not to go to extremes when talking about China, if people care to hear at all about this thing that took a year or so of your life. I heard some strange things about Switzerland sometimes when I came back from school, but being asked about the Swedish language seemed kind of quaint compared with other personal or misguided questions I got about China. After one day of answering questions like "So with the gender imbalance you must be really popular, right?" or "I hear English teachers make good money over there so you must be doing pretty well" I started thinking that if I had to answer questions about money and boyfriends, I might as well be back in China. And here I am on round 3. I do not know that I will stay after this third year, I'm not always sure the choice I made was well reasoned but I don't regret it. I find myself thinking that I'd like to challenge myself with something new though I'm not unhappy here either.
In the meantime, I'll try to keep up with weekly updates so that you can continue to enjoy classroom antics and my little slice of life in China (and that's what makes going back to the US so hard, realizing that you made a life somewhere else with its own shape and habits and people and having to do it over again, but I've done it before so I know I can do it again). Please enjoy what may be my last run as a Zhu in Zhuzhou.