Two days back home. Jet lag. Culture shock. Banana-walnut pancakes. China now in the rearview.
To wrap up this trip and put it in a one-sentenced box – that’s just too hard. I think people want the gist. Well, they probably just want me to say “It was good!” and be done with it. Or at least they want a few adjectives. Enlightening. Life-changing. Totally insane.
To be honest though, my mind first goes to the harsher moments, the everyday language struggle, the unfamiliar cultural expectations, the pollution. And I think that, if I were to be paint a picture, the background would be a fiery Communist red. There’d be some smog in the air and silhouettes of half-finished, high-rise apartments, but most importantly, red, red, red.
Then we’d come to the foreground and see mobs of people. People from everyday life. The guy who runs Frank’s Hotdogs, the condescending lady at the corner market, the campus homeless guy wearing a Mao-suit, our RA and her son, Mr Fu the Tea Guy, our translators, the lady who cooks chicken-egg-McMuffins (love her), our favorite sixteen year-old waitress, old men playing chess, some pingpong wizards, some nurses, etc, etc.
Then in center stage, yours truly of course, smack dab in the cross fire between the master’s student, the patient, and the cardiologist. The patient is sticking his tongue out and pointing at his chest. The masters student is readying the blood pressure machine. The doctor is feeling the pulse and looking at a CT scan (integrated medicine). I’m pounding bottles of green tea to stay awake and take notes. Bam. That’s the picture.
What was China like? It was work, dude.
Only now, here in the comfort of Berkeley, California, can I feel a sense of separation from my second life as a Traditional Chinese Medicine student in Henan, China. And I have to say, I am surprised at how good it feels.
Walking to a park. Chatting with the neighbors. Finding a secret waterfall. Having friends over for lunch. Cleaning up the garden. Taking a nap.
And my lungs feel great.
At the end of the day, China is an intense, challenging place. Those who enjoy it, stay and relish in the constant stream of change, surprise, and struggle. For me, coming home is a joy. I’m not saying I don’t like the struggle! The struggle is important for any kind of adventure or growth. But for me, I do love Berkeley and its many flavors of kookiness (and delicious food).
It’s good to be home.