China was a homecoming of sorts. I have the country’s blood in my veins, so when I first entered its borders, I expected something to happen.
An epiphany. A strong pull.
A Chinese train worker tried to help me find a money exchange kiosk at our first China stop at Harbin Railway Station.
What tumbled from his mouth was a jumble. A combination of Chinese letters crashing together in my ears.
He expected me to understand. And I didn’t.
He tipped back his hat and stared at me, this newfound curiosity. My eyes and skin so similar to him, the noir of my hair blending in so well with his. Black on black.
Yet, he realized I am an alien.
His colleague came over, noticing the fuss circulating around this seemingly average Asian woman.
His eyes narrowed, sizing me up. I was gripped by fear, worry.
He’s going to talk to me, isn’t he?
His lips contorted, forming auditory patterns, spewing them onto the train platform. His question lay motionless, waiting for me to sweep it up and respond. It was my turn to narrow my eyes, as though that would help in understanding him. My brain attempted to replay his question, but the words tumbled over the cliff of translation. So gone.
Then, I felt ashamed. That I couldn’t talk to either of them.
I remember fluency, in the tender moments of my first four years, but as the years wore on, my language and resolve to continue to speak it, vanished.
It bothers me that I should feel so lost in a country that should feel like home.
To walk among people who’s faces and bodies are carved from the same genetic pool, yet I am from somewhere else that is fascinating and unfamiliar to them, as they are to me.
This makes me wonder, where or what is home?