I have a feeling I might write a few of these as the days come to a close on my trip to China. I am here for a few more months, and then home for a bit, then off for a new adventure in a new country (probably). I’m thinking Asia still may be calling my name though, and i’m excited to open up that new door of opportunity.
As I reflect on this past 11 months.. almost a year, I am faced with a growing feeling of disbelief. I also keep thinking back to the very morning my mom drove me to the Milwaukee, WI airport. Honestly that day is a crisp memory in my mind. I kissed my sister on the forehead (she was sleeping) and my two cats goodbye and I opened up a door to something I never expected. On the way down I think I warned my mom not to talk about anything too serious… it was too emotional. I was so happy to going off on something new, but being a family girl it was hard.. so hard to say goodbye. Finally in the airport the hug that I never wanted to end, and the tears that came were the start of something I didn’t know what to expect.
When I first got here I met up with Sara (we were supposed to arrive together but visa issues ensued and so separate is what occurred). I was excited for the adventures to come.
One word. Honestly, depressing. It was hard. It was hard to plug through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year (I had Sara thank God but still.. hard). Christmas was an emotional wreck. Honestly, the cold of Beijing had brought on a depression thick as the snow and something I didn’t want to face. I couldn’t really go anywhere, I was stuck in my small middle of nowhere town, with almost nothing to do, and I was feeling sorry for myself, lonely and isolated. I think the biggest part of it was home sickness and culture shock. They don’t tell you that a big part of culture shock is not initially but MONTHS AFTER. Now I know. It’s all a part of the experience. I explored my small town and cooked and made day adventures to try and make up for the coldness that was Daxing.
At that time I wish I would have known about Harbin (ice town) and how beautiful it is in the winter, I would have made a voyage there.. but I didn’t unfortunately. So I pushed through winter..
January brought on a new friend, Megan, and we had some adventures together which made the month go quickly. After she left, Spring Festival in February with Alicia, Sara, Sara, Jenny and Onra brought back the enthusiasm and excitement I first brought with me to Beijing, and I knew my culture shock was over. The adventures we had were only the start and then I knew I was excited for the future.
And Spring bled into Summer too quickly a visit from my mom made April fly by and made this whole trip doable. With her courage, love and visit I knew I could keep pushing through my last six months. Summer has come and almost gone and with it many many trips have occurred. Tianjin, Tiayuan, Xiaoyi, Dalian, Qingdao, all around Beijing and i’m sure more to come are what made this summer worth it. When you make it to the summer you can really endure the new country and its obstacles. You can travel easier, you can meet people, enjoy the weather and water (on the east coast cities) and the adventures that come with it.
As i’m nearing the end of this trip a part of me is already in shock for the goodbyes and life I will have back in the USA. A part of me is freaking out. I have grown an even deeper independence here that has shocked even me, and every weekend can be an adventure. Am I ready to integrate back into my own culture with its expensive travels, expensive lifestyle, bigger portion foods, obesity rates, and knowing everyone around me can understand me? These are just a few things I know I will face when I return. Reverse culture shock they say can be even more intense. I read this website and am dreading the expected but appreciated and understand their words of advice I think it really rings quite true: http://www.vagabondish.com/how-to-survive-reverse-culture-shock/
FINAL THOUGHT: One thing can be said though (culture shock reverse or not aside), I cannot wait to see my family, friends, CORE and extended family. I miss them all so much, they are my rock and safety, and I love them beyond life itself! :*