The Next Five Months

Eden P. is currently a junior at SYA China and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from The Brearley School in New York.

My week spent with my American family here in China was almost as hard as the first two weeks of the trip itself. However, unlike those introductory days, I did not anticipate the difficulties vacation would bring. At all.

My hopes and assumptions had been, effectively, one and the same that my mother, father, and brother would arrive in Beijing with much hugging and rejoicing abound, that I would gleefully tour them about the city I now called my own, that they would love it as much as I did.

And, to be fair, a lot of that did happen. Taking my brother for jianbing was one of the best moments I’ve had. The way his face lit up at something I’m lucky enough to call a weekly pleasure made me feel warmer than I knew possible in the winter air. Plus, the fact that I got his picky eater of a self to try a new food without bribery or extortion was certainly a win in my books.

But for the most part, it was all... weirdly difficult. I felt like I was experiencing a different Beijing, a different China. Not that the experience felt cheapened from my day to day life, or that I wasn’t experiencing real Beijing. It’s just that the dynamic of my American family existing in a place where I already had established a separate dynamic was difficult to deal with. It felt like two overlapping universes, like watching a 3D movie with the glasses off. Eye strain.

Translation wasn’t an issue; I was more than happy to feel a sense of improvement. “Did you know,” I said, a little too often for my family’s liking, “that at the beginning of the year, I had no idea what this said?” I’d then gesture to a sign that none of them could read. It was fun. I enjoyed it quite a lot 

And getting them to enjoy themselves was less of an issue. They were blown away by things I’ve been lucky enough to assimilate into the box I’ve labeled mundane in my mind. Street signs and buses and the way the subway system works, a thousand times more on schedule and efficient than New York City’s MTA. Street food and long avenues and traffic laws, or apparent lack thereof. This is my life. Just... my life.

I had a wonderful time, but it makes me worried for my return to America. Will I try to be living two different lives at once? Will I attempt to live the life I’ve lived here in a different city, in a city that doesn’t necessarily have the facilities required to replicated this life? Simply put: what will have changed? Thankfully, I don’t need to think about that for a while. For now, I’m able to slip comfortably back into my life here in Beijing and make the most of every moment in these next five months.

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