On the Shanghai Metro in happier days

This is why I’ve been so quiet the past few months.  I was stuck.

And sometimes I just don’t want to air my dirty business on the blog.  Or maybe you want to read about that guy who never texted me back after our date (his name rhymes with ‘alone’ – I’m not joking) or how that girl in a canary yellow helmet nearly snuffed my life out.   I was standing, she was riding an ebike, and our bodies met in the most obtrusive manner.  Luckily only my right hand and thigh got nicked.

And then there’s China.  After the rampant discrimination I’ve faced in the past two months, my enchantment with China was over.  I was ready to punch it in the face.

Them: “You look Chinese.”
Me: “Uh huh.”

Them: “Oh, you look Chinese.”
Me:  “Nooo, you look Chinese.”

Them: “You know, you look Chinese.”
Me: “Oh, you don’t say,  I always thought I resembled her.”

I’ve never had to explain my face so much before.  It made me lose heart in China.  For a country that is developing at rapid speed, their openness to the world is smaller than I guessed.  I wonder if the country can balance culture and technology as Japan has done so successfully.

I wavered between staying at my current university or seeking other new and exciting places in China or beyond.  Countries like Turkey, Indonesia, Honduras, and even Japan flew off the map  at my eager hands.

Then everything died.  A string of nasty slammed me against a wall.  First my current university inquired about my plans for next semester and when I dropped the hint that I might stay, it was explicitly expressed they needed less teachers than anticipated.

Japan fell through.  Interviews and emails hung in the air, and my paranoia grew.  Did silence mean I look too Chinese or did that request for another photo mean I look really Chinese?  I couldn’t figure out who was feeding me truth or lies.

As I was feeling maligned and dog-eared tired it occurred to me that I signed up for this.  Cultural exchange is not always a smooth road.  All I could do was accept and move forward.

For the first time in the two years since I left home, I felt something alien.  A surge of panic.  Clutching at the tatters of finances and not knowing where I belonged.

But suddenly the clouds parted and a slice of sun warmed my shivering skin.  A college at the same campus offered me a contract. Whee!  Right?

It was odd.  The coordinator kept pressuring me to come into his office – to seal the deal.

Maybe you can relate to this condition?

You read the reminder and purposely ignore it.  You feel knots in your stomach whenever your brain dances with signing.  That contract.  The apartment lease.  That commitment.  A light sweat might form on the surface of your palms.

This is what I did for a month.  Avoid any possible answer to staying in Wuxi.  The horrible, shitty truth is I’m allergic to standing still.  To being shuffled in a corner of time and never shake my head of the water to wake up and leave.

So while I panicked about what to do, the prospect of spending another five months here fed a deeper fear of wasting time.

See, I pledged to myself a long time ago to never feel trapped again.  To always ensure life is lived with possibilities.

But practicality has twisted my arm.  I am officially staying in China for another five months.

Do I want to?  Not really.  Will I make the best of it?  Of course I will.

A life of adventure isn’t bloated with a parade of mind-blowing, good times.  There are moments when we have to pause.  Take stock of who we are and where we are at, before propelling to the next thing.

I promise to write more about China.  I promise to write more, period.  I vow to be more present.  Isn’t that the best anyone could ask for?