The potential of home

We’re scheduled to visit home at the end of this month. The Chinese are preparing for 2017 The Year of the Rooster. We decided to visit home during the craziness that is (we hear) Chinese New Year because evidently our area in Suzhou empties out. No one is really “from” this part of town because this part of town has existed for only about ten years. Before that, it was marshes and farmland.

Originally I thought it would be fun to see Chinese New Year as it is celebrated here, but honestly I don’t know if that’s possible, considering most people celebrate with their families in their homes in their hometowns. And since Suzhou is nobody’s hometown, unless we’re invited to a Chinese family’s home for the holiday (unlikely), it doesn’t seem like we’ll actually be able to experience it much. (Other than the potential travel rush around the time we’re flying home, that is. I have only heard whispered legends of what is the mass migration during Chinese New Year. I’m positive I’ll have something to share after our flights from and back to Shanghai.) That’s kind of a letdown, but at least it carves out a chunk of time for us to come home for a little while.

Both Andy’s mom and my mom are already asking about what kinds of foods we want while we’re home and scheduling time to visit various family members. It’s adorable. We smile at each other every time we get a message from our moms. This is what my students talked about when I taught in the U.S.–how their family members were preparing for them to visit home weeks in advance. We love it!

This all means that we will need to be really physically active while we’re home because eating all our favorite foods for two and a half weeks straight is not healthy! It’ll be delicious for sure, but the goal is not to gain any weight, but eat what we want! (Andy has less to worry about than I do, of course, and my lady friends and family members out there will empathize with me on this, I am certain.)

Personally, I’ll be excited to run outdoors because the air pollution here has been rough since around November. (I swear I’m writing a blog about the pollution, but I just don’t have all the information I want yet!) I haven’t run outdoors at all in China, really, because I have this mental trepidation about my asthma and the air here. It’s not holding me back yet, but it has the potential to. The air pollution is very real, but it’s worst in the winter (we hear) and we have ways to mitigate our exposure to it for now (we hope). (Nevertheless, I’ve registered to run my first race on Chinese soil in March 2017. It’s a quarter marathon–haha–14km or about 8 miles. Andy’s running it too. It’s hosted here in Suzhou.)

I’ve been running and working out indoors at my gym downtown, which is great because they have air purifiers. However, it is a veritable sauna in there once I get up to pace. There are no fans and in the ONE place where I wouldn’t mind the southern-Chinese lack of indoor heating, alas, there is heating. Sigh. Even if it’s below freezing in early February when we’re home, it’ll be nice to run in fresh air!

We’re making lists of things we want to buy back home. We’re buying things online and having them shipped to our parents’ houses so we can collect them while we’re there. I’ve bought clothes, mostly (because nothing here fits me and I need more things to layer). We’ll also be buying vitamins (lots of vitamins), any shoes we need for the next year, and a water filter for our shower head because no amount of aloe or lotion or Head and Shoulders can fix the itchiness administered to my body via Chinese tap water. (If anyone wants to know what we need/want: we need vitamins because we don’t trust the ones available here (hell, the FDA doesn’t even regulate the ones in the US…) and we’re feeling a little deficient in various ways. Also, I am trying to grow my hair again.)

We’re also making lists of people we need to see while we’re back home! This is the exciting part, but also the worrisome part. It’s exciting for obvious reasons: friends, family, love, laughing, food, hugs, and yay yay yay! Awesome things. The worrisome parts? Well, having enough time, being able to schedule things in a way that makes sense, the weather cooperating with any plans we make, transportation, and having to say goodbye again are all on the top of my mind, but it also goes without saying that these visits may not necessarily be indicative of the state of any of the relationships we’ve kept. Visiting home might not give us the right read on the state of our loved ones, and even though we’ve tried to keep in touch in various ways, it’s possible that (like all human relationships) there are some failings that will need to be corrected or addressed and it’s possible that we may try and fail or not be able to correct/address these things, or that we may not even be aware of these things if people try to hide anything that isn’t sunshine and daisies while we’re home. This is the fear of growing older, though, and I recognize it for what it is. I accept it and its challenges, not because I like the challenges, but because I frankly have no choice whether or not I live in the same city as my loved ones or another country.

Phew! Sorry I got a little philosophical. All of this is so new. Visiting home has lots of potential. It’s a little weird to be planning a visit to a place where once we would have merely returned, but this is the new life we’ve carved out. See you soon, USA!

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