A few forgotten loves I’ve been reminded of during my time in my hometown of Marysville, Washington, are cars, water towers, and red box.
I started this blog three years ago when I left the United States of America to live a life as an English teacher and missionary in Taiwan. I hadn’t made any return trip trips during those three years (I travelled around Asia instead), and now I’m back for the summer, soaking in the beauty of the homeland.
And the jet-lag, you might ask?
|My dad and I at the airport.
Thanks to sleep-deprivation and sleeping pills (and no thanks to leaving my house a little late or falling asleep at the Tokyo airport and waking up to discover I didn’t know how to read a boarding pass and needed to RUN to Gate 14 to make my flight, because 27G wasn’t a gate number – it was my seat!), I successfully countered jet-lag. I woke up Sunday morning, July 1, in Seattle, Washington, feeling the way I normally feel after waking up in the morning – the only difference being I wasn’t in my bed.
After some waiting and confusion, my parents found me at the airport, my sister picked us and my luggage up in the car, and I was home, eating breakfast with my family again. And since then, I’ve been able to experience some beautiful things that were taken-granted-for-parts of my previous existence in the States, among them being cars, water towers, and red box.
Three years had been a long time to stay abroad, away from home and family. As I was planning the trip home, I found myself experiencing feelings of fear and going back to America. Life in Taiwan was all I knew after college graduation. All my friends were moving forward with their lives in completely separate spheres. Weddings, deaths, births – there was so much I had already missed that it felt strange to re-enter now. But then…when?
The biggest question I would often think about was, Would I want to return to Taiwan? Had I unknowingly exceeded my subconscious quota of time and life away from home that I would actually want to stay…home? All of my friends had already made a few return trips during their time in Taiwan, some even returning twice a year. In my case, I felt like that was a lot of money – too much money, so it wasn’t a financial priority. They would bring things back with them from their trips America. I didn’t even know what I missed from America anymore when I people asked me.
As the day of the scheduled flight came closer, one thing was becoming psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually clear: I needed to go home.
And when I landed in Seattle that morning, everything felt right. It felt so natural to be right there with my family again, sleeping in the same room with my sister, having my dad take me on nickel-tours of the backyard, briefly chatting with the pet parakeet when I walk by his cage. I’ve been so comfortable re-experiencing cars, water towers, and red box all over again.
These three elements of life will now serve as my brief metaphorical explanation of what it’s been like to be back in the States after 3 years.
Here’s the nature of driving a car on the road. You’re in the car, with all the other drivers in their cars, by yourself. Though the road is full of other drivers, you’re completely separated from them. Surrounded by people, yet all by yourself.
In Taipei, I don’t drive a car. I walk on the sidewalk, sit on the bus, ride the subway with other people, shoulder to shoulder sometimes with the other pedestrians. When I am going somewhere, chances are there’s a handful of other people going in the same direction. I flow with the pedestrian current. In the US, I flow with the current of cars. It’s different, to say the least.
Water towers are my favorite kind of landmark. My favorite thing about road trips or driving anywhere new in the US was finally coming upon the city’s water tower. A water tower tells me I’ve reached my destination, that I’m in a different place.
In Taipei, the language that surrounds me is Mandarin, and I usually travel to different cities by train or subway. The name of the station stop clues me in, or the sound of the intercom if I can’t read the sign. It’s a completely different feeling than gazing up at a water tower leaning against the sky.
Need I say more? Honestly, a little over a buck for a one-day movie rental. Three years was way too long without this wonderful invention. I don’t know why redbox just doesn’t go international. I fall way behind in movies in Taiwan. Redbox is what helps me up keep up. And it doesn’t even matter if it’s a crappy movie. It was only a buck! Alas, most of you reading this already know all the wonder. I did, too, and also took it for granted until I was without redbox for three years!
These are just some of the things that punctuate the little differences between life in Taiwan and life in America.
One of things I always heard about before making the trip home was REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK. I heard so many different stories, I started getting super curious as to what my own experience was going to be like.
You know, I think I was gone SO long that most of the romance of living overseas has more or less wore off. Had I come home sooner, I might have been more apt and alert to take note of all the cultural and sociological differences between here and there. But as it is, all these differences have only come up conversationally or subtly as I re-visit old haunts and reunite with friends. I find myself extremely content to be spending the summer here. It’s about time, and I’m still an American, so it feels normal. And as far as missing Taiwan goes, I know I’ll be back at the end of the summer.
So in a sense, jet-lag is not the only thing I have countered here on my visit to the US. I countered culture-shock as well.