I can’t sleep.
Justin is sound asleep in bed, his chest rising and falling, probably lost in some peaceful dream. How does he do it?
My mind is racing, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to catch a wink of sleep tonight. I keep going over a mental to-do list in my head. Have to finish packing. Have to figure out how to fit all of the stuff in the suitcases so that we can finish packing. Have to find a paper bag to breathe into for when I start panicking about how all of our stuff will never fit into our suitcases and we’ll never finish packing. Have to make a list of all the stuff from China we’re packing for the airport customs people. Do I need receipts? Why did I never save any receipts?? And on and on…
And the dreams keep playing with my head, too. I used to have “America” dreams a lot when I first arrived in China. I would fall asleep and find myself back in America in my dreams. It was always someplace different. Once I was at my Aunt Sondra and Uncle David’s house, sitting and chatting with them and my cousins in their living room. Once I was with my friend Cherika playing mini golf in Orlando. But it was always very normal, humdrum stuff…and then I would glance at my wristwatch and say, “Oh look at the time! I need to get back to China now. Sorry I can’t stay longer!” and then I would wake up in my bed in China. These dreams were so realistic and convincing that I drove myself crazy sometimes when I woke up and realized that I wasn’t really back home. About three months into our stay in China (during the holidays), I grew so homesick that I was having these dreams just about every night, and even my dream-self started growing skeptical at that point. I would dream myself at home, in my parents’ house, and walk around examining the room closely. “Hmmm….I don’t know. Would Mom have REALLY chosen these curtains? I don’t think this is real! I’m not REALLY home yet! This is another fake-out isn’t it?” I would question, before waking up in my bed in China again.
It took about six or seven months before I finally had a dream that took place in China, with people actually speaking Chinese. I suppose it was a long time before I finally really embraced my living situation.
But all this past week, the America dreams have started recurring again. This time, there’s usually some sort of problem when we try to return home. Like I realize that our visa has expired and we’ll have to wait for it to renew before we go home, or I realize that there are a few important people who I forgot to buy souvenirs for. Last night I dreamed that Justin decided to rent a car and DRIVE back to China to save money on airline tickets, and no matter how many reasonable objections I voiced, I couldn’t convince him to do otherwise.
I suppose my reverting back to America dreams means that I’m excited about going home–and I am, truly! That’s part of the reason why I’m having trouble falling asleep tonight (our last night in China). But the switch from the America dreams being pleasant, almost too good to be true to the America dreams being a bit troubling means that I am feeling anxious about returning home. What if returning home isn’t quite as good as I’ve been hoping for all this time?
What if people in America are mean? Chinese people are some of the nicest people I’ve ever come in contact with–I mean, complete strangers are always willing to go out of their way to offer Justin and I some help or even pay for our cab or something. No one in America will be that nice. In fact, there are a lot of people in America who are mean for no reason, who sneer at someone because they don’t like the outfit that person is wearing, or perhaps just because they missed their morning coffee and they’re feeling a bit cranky with everyone at the moment.
For example: on the last day of classes here in China, I wore a new dress and some new glasses that I’d just bought (with cute, red plastic frames). In America, I might get a few scattered compliments here and there for my new and improved appearance. There are many people, though, (like my husband) who probably wouldn’t even notice the change. Here in China, when I walked into the classroom, I received a round of applause. Actually, no….that doesn’t even cover it. I received a standing ovation (yes, they stood up out of their chairs!), and many students yelled out, “Wow! So beautiful!” and got out their cell phones to take my picture. I mean, let’s be honest. In America, that kind of situation will never EVER happen.
And while I still occasionally hate my celebrity status here in China (like, for example, when Justin and I order some food at a restaurant and the chef insists on bringing it out to our table himself….and pulling up a chair to watch us eat it), for the most part, I’ve gotten used to being special. I see people staring at me, and only for an instant, I think, “Why are they all staring?” and then a second later I remember with a haughty smile, “Oh right….just because I’m me.” I’ve gotten used to random strangers on the street approaching me on a daily basis to tell me that I’m beautiful, or ask to take my picture, to which I roll my eyes and graciously reply, “Oh…I guess!”
But when I go back to America (tomorrow!) I won’t be special anymore. I’ll be just another face in the crowd. Which will be especially discouraging during my impending job search.
Justin and I left for China jobless, and we will return to China jobless. We are both attempting to find jobs in relatively the same city, anywhere along the eastern seaboard, which in this economy is becoming increasingly difficult to do. In China, random people come up to me on the street and offer me teaching jobs at their schools. In America, it’s more likely that I will be standing on the street, looking disheveled, holding a sign that says, “Will teach 4 food!” Oh no…I shouldn’t think too hard about that. That’s another bad dream just waiting to happen.
I’m not really sure how to conclude this post (or this blog, for that matter) because I’m not really sure what my conclusion is yet. Will America welcome me back with open arms? Or will my arrival back home herald the beginning of the “China” dreams, in which I long for a place where I am considered special and have no shortage of amazing opportunities offered to me on a silver platter? Only time will tell…