Or have I left home again?

Back in Wuzhong, I have that same strange feeling I had in America; that no time has passed and I've been here all along and the time spent away was something I dreamt. I wonder about myself sometimes. I wonder if I can fall in love with every place I move, and if so, how will I ever settle down? I still miss France and long to return. And there are so many places I still want to experience. It's not enough to be a tourist; I want to really be part of the places I go. I guess the price for that is that those places end up owning a piece of your heart. You'll always miss them once you leave.

Not that it's all been wonderful being back here. I got sick probably the second I stepped onto Chinese soil. Also I screwed up my calculated day of arrival with the time change and was a day later than I had told everyone, including the driver I was to pay 600rmb to drive me all the way home. I felt very sheepish to learn he had waited several hours at the airport for me the previous day. Naturally I still have to pay him his 600 kuai. Well instead of a cushy 2 hour ride in a car and the peaceful nap I had been looking forward to, I ended up taking a long stressful commute on a bus, a train, and a taxi. For someone who claims to love travel, it sure does stir up a lot of panic attacks and tears in me. Navigating stepping off the bus to the ticket office and then the train is particularly challenging, and once on the train it's easy to be nervous about not knowing what's going on and possibly missing your stop. But I've been lucky. Every time I've had to ride the train, I've been fortunate enough to make friends with some Chinese people sitting near me who help me the rest of my way. The first time it was a nice man who let me use his cell phone and made sure I found the legit taxis and saw me on my way. This time it was a nice couple, the husband taking charge of my enormous suitcase and both of them seeing me into the taxi. She texted me later to make sure I got home safely. The people in China can be so unbelievably wonderful like this. I think the trick is you have to be friendly to them first, otherwise they are likely to be shy and reluctant to bother you. Ask for help and I have found you shall receive! More than you need!

Meanwhile I have been a total weakling in standing up to jetlag. I've let it make me its slave, hence this being written at 4:30am. My first day back I woke bright and early and did some unpacking and whatnot, went to lunch with Erik and his visiting friends, did a Rosetta Stone lesson, then allowed myself to fall asleep.... until midnight. I tried to keep sleeping but just couldn't anymore by 3am and watched some movies instead. I've been going to bed about 7 or 8pm ever since. A perverse part of me kind of likes it. I like having lots of time in the morning to wrap my mind around the coming day. I like getting 8-10 hours of sleep. Am I a grandma at 23? 

No but I really do need the time and sleep because my new schedule is a doozy. The kindergarten has given me a TON more responsibility. I have basically taken over all English aspects of the program when before I was just a supplementary lesson. It's a lot more work and is already kicking my ass, but in a good way. Like, I feel challenged and stimulated. And I feel like a legit teacher, an equal with my Chinese colleagues. It's just the taste of early childhood education I need to determine if I am capable and willing to go into this field. I'm stoked about rising to the challenge! The downside to my schedule is the school wants me to do 4 primary lessons on top of this: two 3rd grade, two 1st grade. And I REALLLY don't want to. I am negotiating it now and trying my hardest to get out of it. But I might be stuck.

Fingers crossed for that, the swift return of my fading vocal chords, and my ability to keep up with the elevated expectations of the kindergarten. Now to try and squeeze 2 more hours of sleep out of this night.
My short visit home has intensified the feeling that I am living in two alternate dimensions at once. The life I left behind in America has continued steadily like a moving sidewalk, and I hopped back onto it with surprising ease the moment my plane landed. But it's taken the longest time to shake this queer feeling that my five month absence is something I dreamed. Weirder yet is accepting that in a few days I'll be returning to that strange reality where I'm sure these moments in the motherland will take on a dream-like feeling. Being here is not unlike falling into a worm hole, or the way people might feel after being abducted by aliens. I also feel like I have split personalities, my Atlanta personality that emerged after a few days of coaxing, and my China personality which I hope hasn't gone too far into hiding during my stay here. 

China habits that don't go well here: Throwing trash on the floor in restaurants. Spitting. Not wearing a seatbelt. 

America features I'm not liking so much: Cold drinks. Expensive food. Needing a car.

Upon my return to this fine nation, I promptly took care of the things I miss most in China by visiting a dive bar and seeing a live show. It was fantastic to see my best friends again and we shared a pitcher (something else I miss in China) and headed to 529 to check out a metal show. Maybe a lot of it was a buzz from the beer and the glow of being around my kindred spirits after such a long absence, but I really dug this show. Metal is usually not my thing, but I was caught up in the energy. It was just so American, ya know? It's a subculture that just doesn't exist at the same level in China. There were lots of long haired bearded people in black band shirts. The basist of the band had cornrows and, I shit you not, a forked beard. The lead singer introduced his songs with an affected demonic voice saying things like "this song is about you. It's called.... SERPENT TONGUE!" then noise and energy would blow up the room. The songs were about Satan but I was in heaven. I must have looked a little pathetic rocking out with my fingers lodged in my ears because someone tapped me on the shoulder and offered me some earplugs. Thank you, kind metal show samaritan. These are the kinds of experiences that I really miss having in China.

I've filled the rest of my time with other things I've missed, particularly veggie burgers and Mexican food. I've tried to see as many friends as I can. I've watched a lot of my parents' fine cable and visited my old stomping ground in Down Town Atlanta. It's been a whirlwind but an interesting whirlwind. I just hope I don't feel as weird and out of it when I return home (or should I say to China? Or is it home?) because I'm going to have to start work like the next day.  And I can't afford to be in a daze, my mind boggled by philosophical mysteries of space and time, when there are third graders to wrangle.