Culture Embrace?

I’ve been back home for about a week now, and I still have yet to be really culture-shocked. Everyone had been preparing me to be “reverse” culture-shocked when I returned to the States, and they warned me that jet lag could take weeks to get over, but I haven’t really had any of that. Walking through the airport at LAX, surrounded by Americans all speaking English to one another, and seeing the American flag with President Obama’s picture beneath it captioned, “Welcome to the United States of America” really felt like waking from a long, strange dream and returning back to, well…normal.

It was really perfect to get back home just in time for Independence Day. I felt like this year, more than ever, I was able to really appreciate all of the freedom that our nation enjoys. Hearing the song “God Bless the USA” got me a little more choked up than it usually does. The government will never tell me that I can’t make a trip to another country or move overseas if I want to….The government will never put a limit on how many children I’m allowed to have….The government never forced me into a college major that I didn’t want to take….I can own my own property….I can place my vote for our nation’s leader this November….I can visit any website on the internet and listen to any kind of music that I want to. I really enjoyed spending the year in China, but America is hands-down my favorite place on Earth!

There’s nothing more American that barbeque and….

…baseball!

That being said, there are a couple of things in America that I’m still having trouble getting used to. Not to sound rude, but I forgot just how obese Americans are! You occasionally see overweight people in China, but no one as absurdly blubbery as the people walking the streets in America. The day we got back to the States, we ate lunch at Applebees (Ricky Bobby’s dining establishment of choice) and we actually saw a man so large he was having difficulty wedging himself out of the booth where he’d just finished off his meal. It probably has something to do with culinary monstrosities such as this:

What is with this weird bacon obsession?

And I thought eating duck tongues in China was disgusting! Little did I know what I was coming home to…

Speaking of Applebees, Justin and I have yet to be able to finish a restaurant meal! Most places serve meals that are WAY too big, and since we are vagabonds and have no refrigerator to store leftovers, I have been feeling really guilty about wasting food. Even after stuffing myself until I feel sick, I can only usually finish about half of the food on my plate. After wasting food at Applebees and Denny’s, Justin and I visited Olive Garden and finally remembered to split our entree so we wouldn’t waste anymore food (what can I say? Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs!).

I also feel a little bit sick about how so many people in China are poor and starving, and people in America are treating eating like an Olympic event. Eat twelve hot wings in six minutes and win a free t-shirt, plus your name up on our wall of fame! When we were at Olive Garden the other night, Justin asked the waiter about the portion size of the meal we were about to share, and the waiter said, “Oh, it’s a pretty big dish! It’ll definitely fill you up. You’ll be feeling pretty useless afterwards.” We all laughed, but I felt a pang of guilt when he said it. Is that the goal for suppertime these days? Not just gaining sustenance and energy, but eating until we’re beached on the couch like whales, feeling completely useless? It’s an idea that will take me awhile to adjust to, but I’m kind of hoping that I don’t get used to it at all…

The question that so many of our Chinese friends asked us before we left was, “When will you come back to China?” We laughed and told them we weren’t sure, but it probably won’t be for a long time. They were sad that we weren’t coming back in the fall to teach again, and I’m a little bit sad about it too. It was a nice job, and now we’re faced with trying to find jobs in the U.S., and living off of the hospitality of family and friends until we can figure out where we’ll be living and what we’ll be doing.

Will we really ever return to China? That’s a good question.

I’m going to go ahead and tell you a secret: Justin and I would like to adopt a little Chinese girl someday. We actually looked into it while we were living in China, and there are a whole bunch of requirements (and expenses!) involved in the process that we don’t quite meet yet, including the adopting couple being over the age of thirty. But in another four or five years….who knows? We may be on a plane headed back to China for a very special reason. 🙂