So happy to be back in China, after a longer than expected journey (got stranded in Hong Kong for a day), even if I am still jet-lagging. Courtesy of my jet lag, in fact, I woke up at 6:30 this Saturday morning, but thanks to some reinforcements from my stateside journey (pumpkin spice candle, Peet’s Coffee), and China’s seasonal fare (some of the sweetest strawberries you’ve ever tasted), this is what my merry scene looked like this sunny morning:
But it was somewhere between the over forty-eight hours of uninterrupted travel time, and the irony that I study patterns of care in Chinese culture for a living, that I was able to fully appreciate what has been so wonderful about being with friends and family in the states over these past two and half weeks, and that was the experience of being so utterly and fully cared for.
I’m blessed to be a twin and my younger sister is only twenty-two months younger than us, so I’ve been spoiled by people who know me practically better than they know themselves. My twin and I were the kind who did the spooky twin language talking in our sleep thing, and my little sister, ever since she’s been old enough to talk, says she’s able to tell us apart “by our voices,” which everyone else says sound eerily the same. My parents have provided for me in so many ways, not just physically, but spiritually, and emotionally, and when all of us get together, we often laugh until we cry.
I guess what I’m getting at is it’s not just that nobody in the world knows you quite as well as your family, given all those years of mutual habitation and sometimes frustration, but nobody else knows quite how to care for you either.
When I was in the states these past few weeks, I was never “home,” in the traditional sense of the word, hopping from Montreal, Canada to Peru, NY, to Boston and then Plymouth, MA, but in each place, I had my needs met in ways I could never have even articulated. In Montreal, my anthropology buddies identified with my loneliness in the field, encouraged me to keep going, listened to my ideas, and loved me. In Peru, NY, my dear friend and her fiance introduced me to their friends with whom I felt at home, fed me, got me outdoors into their lovely habitat, and allowed me to celebrate with them. In Boston, I got to play only child for the morning, when my parents took me to the JFK Library and Museum in Boston and let me talk about my life in China, and then in Plymouth for Thanksgiving week, my Auntie whipped up amazing meals, carted me around shopping for hours, while my sisters took me on runs, shared jokes with me, and chatted about our common past, and our divergent futures.
What a restful, thrilling thing it is to be cared for, because despite how much I love my life here in China, it is very much I, who care for myself (although my husband does help!), and sometimes that stress of living in a different culture and country overwhelms. However, as I return to this place, I realize there are people who make me feel “home” here, too, who meet my needs, just in different ways. We can never return to the people we were as children, but it is amazing to realize how grateful we are for the people who made us who we are today.
I may not tell my family and friends enough, but they’re the ones who’ve given me the strength, the wisdom, and the courage to meet the adventures of my life here head on. It’s their caring for me that I carry with me, and hopefully share with others, and that which I will always cherish.