Monday, August 24, 2009

Coming "Home"

by Ruth

We have made it back to Weinan, after various means of travels and two days of meetings in Beijing. We arrived on the train this morning and have already gotten settled back in, plus had a cleaning crew come in to deep clean the apartment. It's such a nice feeling to be in a clean house (Although, half an hour after they cleaned, the dining table was already covered with enough dust to run your finger through. That's what happens when the windows are open, which is what happens when your A/C still doesn't work.) Now we are just trying to press through the exhaustion/jetlag for long enough until we can justify going to bed.

While we were in Beijing with other teachers, I kept hearing people talking about "going home" to their schools. For some people, who have lived here a long time, that seems legitimate. This is probably their home more than anywhere else. With other people, it seemed kind of campers calling their cabin "home" or something like that. But perhaps that's just me being judgmental.

It was nice to come back to Weinan, to our familiar apartment with all our things. It is nice to know our way around, to greet the guard at the gate and the owners of our favorite restaurants. But would I really call this home? It still seems too temporary. Only slightly more permanent than college. Sometimes I even feel like I'm not quite telling the truth when I tell people I live in China. Because I still go back to the states every year, I am still away from here for 3-4 months a year, I still have a US passport and a white face to show I don't belong. So does it count to say that I really live here?

I guess, after moving to so many different places in the past few years, I hold things more loosely. I know I can't quite get settled in. I never forget that anything I bring home I will soon have to pack up and move out. I wonder what "home" really means? After you live in a place for X months/years, does it automatically become home? Does it mean a place where you hang up pictures and put down rugs? I have those things. But to me, home signifies a certain sense of belonging; whether through ownership or memories or family, you have a claim to the place. Home means stability. Roots. Depth that doesn't come with one or two years. That's not what I have here.

It's not such a bad thing, just the way things are. And still, I felt satisfied when I opened my wardrobe and saw all my clothes hung neatly inside. It is a good feeling to come back to a desk drawer that is as cluttered as I left it. Maybe that means I do belong here, even if it's only for a few years, even if it's not quite home.

I am almost up to the 9pm mark, which means I am completely justified in going to bed. Good thing too, because my brain just went on standby. Which means, this is the end.


Ginger said...

Glad to hear y'all made it back OK!

After teaching in China for 3 yrs, Dave & I really resonated with the song that goes, "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' through..."

And it's good to be reminded of that here in the US, too, as we house-sit and continue looking for a place to make our "home" here for a while. Thanks for the past couple entries - they've been good reminders.

wynd said...

Holla! I feel you, sister. I watched a movie called "Away We Go" with John Krasinski and Mya Rudolph that explores the meaning of home. If you see it on the streets, pick it up. Even though I'm back where I lived for the first 23 years of my life, I don't really "belong" anymore. I'm not quite sure what "home" means, either...