A sentence I thought I’d never say: This is the fourth time I’ve gone back to the U.S. in a year and a half.
It’s no longer as shocking as it used to be, and maybe that’s a good thing.
The first time back, there’s this tendency to idolize a place in an in infantile way – you smile sheepishly at the TSA inspectors, look wide-eyed at the first American Starbucks you’ve seen in a year, and feel overwhelmed from not standing out among the crowd.
On some levels, I feel like I am looking at home through a different perspective. Yes, my first meal back from China will always be Chipotle (and yes, I am up to date on the outbreak news, but I already had E.Coli poisoning this year, and Chipotle, I just can’t quit you), but now, the U.S. just doesn’t seem as crowded as it used to be. I don’t see people driving in the middle of two lanes on the highway, like D and I had on our way to Pudong Airport, or feel suspicious about every fruit that I eat. At the same time, I can’t help but want a bowl of rice with every meal or drink my water lukewarm.
Now, there’s a beautiful ordinariness to being back. It’s not that being back in America has lost some of its excitement, but rather that it now both China and America have the familiarity of home, and I think I am okay with that.