Monday, August 27, 2012


The first couple of years after I came to China, I remember people returning after the summer talking about how nice it was to "be back home."  I thought they had to be making it up, wanting to look cool and well-adjusted, because obviously this was not home.  I didn't return with home-like anticipation - my thoughts were more along the lines of, "Why did I come back??" 

Over time, though China has become increasingly more normal, more homelike.  The past few summers upon returning to America I think, "It's so strange here!  So normal and yet so strange.  I kind of want to be back in China where everything is familiar."  I have a similar feeling when I come back to China - I suppose it's only natural to feel a slight disorientation when jumping across the world.  I notice all the stares and remember how foreign I am.  I stumble over the simplest Chinese phrases.  I remember how ugly that bathroom tile is and see those roaches I managed to put out of my mind.  But after a few days, the strangeness fades and life goes on as normal.  We are surprisingly adaptable. 

What actually bothered me this summer is how easy it was to adjust to America, and more particularly an American mindset I hoped to leave behind.  After the initial strangeness, America is so pleasant. It's so clean and pretty and people eat so much cheese.  It's so normal.  You almost forget that most of the world isn't like this. 

It is easier in China for me to look in my closet and think, "I have so many clothes!  Especially since I wear the same things over and over again anyway..." but it didn't take long for me to think, "But wouldn't a new shirt be awfully nice?  It's not all about necessity.  Aren't I entitled to some variety?"  It was easy to envy other people's beautiful bathrooms (including almost every public bathroom I went in) and think, "It sure would be nice to have a bathroom that was so pretty like this."  It was easy for the big houses and the cars and all of the daily wealth to seem so normal.  It was easy to compare myself to other Americans, to think of the luxuries I rightfully "deserve."  The rest of the world seemed far away. 

That is not to say that everyone who lives in America is selfish and unmindful of the rest of the world, but I think I could easily become that way, when the rest of the world isn't constantly getting in your face and forcing you to see a small taste of what "normal" really is. 

I really like America, and it will always be my home.  When I got married I felt sad because I thought I had to give up the sense of home I felt in my childhood Georgia home.  I was afraid I would never have that security of my own home.  But now I realize that home isn't just one place.  It is my parents' peaceful country home.  It was the Pasadena apartment for those 8 months after we married.  It was the Weinan apartment where we got to live for three years, where Juliana spent her first year.  It is our comfortable 6th floor apartment where we get to live for one more year.  Instead of having no home, I actually have home everywhere I go.  In fact, few people will get to have as many homes as I do. 
I miss my home, but also, I'm glad to be home.


Candy said...

That was beautiful, Ruthie!

Anna said...


Patricia Mickle said...

I love you!!

Daniel said...

Your words about having many homes are such a blessing, Ruth, thank you from a desert nomad...