It is another one of those questions like “How are you adjusting to America?” and “Where are you from?” and “Do you love China?” that leaves me fumbling and confused. In an eloquent attempt to convey the complexity of my feelings, I typically say something like, “Um, kind of…”
Besides, saying, "No, I don't miss China" is as awkward as saying, "No, I'm not excited about returning to America." I don't know why - people should be impressed that I'm so content in (or at least unwilling to leave) my current location, wherever that may be.
I told my friend (who lives in China), “I don’t miss China, but I miss our lives in China, if that makes sense.” She thought it made perfect sense.
I don’t miss the stares and attention every time we go outside. I don’t miss the lack of mental healthcare and the general questionable healthcare. I don’t miss the pressure of knowing we are supposed to be Doing Something Significant and knowing everyone is watching us and thinking how weird we are. I don’t miss the pollution or the ugly buildings.
But I do miss some things about China.
I miss the relative simplicity. There is so much less to buy, because we don’t have space for it anyway, and we already have more things than most people around us.
I miss walking and biking and driving our san lun che. Even though a van is so convenient and much more comfortable, I like being in contact with the world instead of being sealed away.
I miss the roadside peddlers, their big metal drums baking sweet potatoes or their giant walks frying up rice and noodles. I miss our fruit seller, who was always so happy to see us and gave us bags of free damaged fruit.
I miss the hijabs and the Hui beards and the smiles I associate with them. I miss the friendly Muslim guys selling flatbread. I miss learning about the cultures within the culture - Hui, Uighur, Kazakh. There is a camradere in being the odd ones out.
I miss Adalyn’s smile she comes out of Chinese kindergarten, holding her teacher’s hand. I miss how enchanted everyone is with Nadia. I miss seeing Juliana talk easily with her Chinese friends. I miss her dance class and her international school and her Norwegian best friend.
I miss my own friends. My city friends have know each other for 7 years, and some countrywide friends for 13 years. We understand each other because we live the same kind of strange lives.
I miss the Chinese old women dancing every morning in the park, even when it is 15F outside. I miss the parks and even the crowded buses, because I don’t ride them too often. I miss Chinese food and all our favorite restaurants.
I miss the mountains and the sunsets on clear days. I miss fall leaves and spring flowers and winter's frozen lakes. I miss the familiarity of our two square miles of everyday life.
So yes, I guess I do miss China. Missing a place is not all or nothing, not pure love or hate; life is never that simple. I am not ready to return, but I think in another 6 months I will be. After all, it has become our home.