When I first arrived in China last May, I was constantly harassed by nightmares. The sequence was always the same I'd find myself back in the States, amongst friends and family.
“But why am I home?" My dream-self would ask. “I'm supposed to be in China."
“Oh, you didn't like it so you came home," the group would say, with no other explanation.
Like Luke Skywalker finding out Darth Vader was his father, I'd shout: “No. That's not true. That's impossible! I love China," as I tried to figure out what really happened. Then I'd wake up, my heart beating.
A month ago, the experience happened again. I woke up in my room at home, my eyes focusing on Dr. Seuss' “Oh, the Places You'll Go!" sitting atop my bookshelf.
But unlike previous nightmares, this was different. This was real. I was actually home, in my own bed, and it felt great.
Complications in acquiring a work visa had forced me to return home. When my student visa expired, I needed a special work visa to extend my stay for the next year.
As inconvenient as the ordeal had been, since I'd just moved into my new apartment in Beijing, I wasn't disappointed that I'd be going home. Having only packed for a two-month stay, there were quite a few things I needed from home, not to mention the fact that my stomach was starting to crave wholesome homemade foods.
But most importantly, I wanted to see my family. We'd been in touch through Skype and other Web chatting programs, but after three months of odd hour Web conversations (there's a 12-hour time difference between China and the United States) what I really wanted was a hug. Or a pat on the back. Or even this secret handshake-hug combination my brother and I do whenever we see each other.
I took care of my visa business right away so I could enjoy my time at home. Two weeks vacationing in Tamaqua, my hometown, never sounded so good.
Coming home wasn't much different than returning from State College, except this time I had a lot more to talk about than all the crazy parties I'd gone to or how wild the town became when we beat Ohio State in football last season. I was able to see most of my friends and even visit Penn State to thank the professor who had played a major role in my job acquisition in China.
The weekend before I returned to China, my parents had a special Welcome Home-Graduation-Going Away party, a get-together for friends and family who hadn't been able to see me before I left for Beijing in May. As guests arrived, the questioning began: “Do you like it?" “How's your Chinese?" And “Do you have a Chinese girlfriend?"
Like a broken record, I answered, respectively: “No, I love it." “Haha, I'm getting there." “And no not yet."
Despite the last answer, a few people accused me of having a secret girlfriend, but I was serious in my answer (and emphasis on the “not yet").
The questions were expected, but a few comments caught me off guard. A few people, young and old, had praised me for my bravery in accepting a job in China. To them, moving to a foreign country right after graduating from college would have been unimaginable. Some said they had difficulty moving away from home to college. My move was on a different scale to them.
I'd never thought of my decision to stay in China as having anything to do with bravery. If anything, my decision to live abroad bordered on near madness. I don't speak the local language. I live close to the U.S. poverty line, but I was willing to move halfway around the world without a second thought. And I'm having a great time, all the while.
Before I had time to further consider my supposed bravery, I found myself back in an airport terminal. The good-byes this time were a little more difficult, and I found myself fighting back tears as I hugged my parents.
Twenty-seven hours later, I was back in Beijing. The exhaustion from the flight and layover in London quickly set in and before I'd even said hello to both my roommates, I fell fast asleep.
When I awoke, I was somewhat disappointed to find out I wasn't in my bed back in the States. I'd been dreaming of home again.
I quickly realized those nightmares I'd been having weren't really nightmares, but my mind reaching for home, trying to fill the void created from my sudden trans-global move back in May. While I may have thought I was prepared, subconsciously my world was still spinning. And so my head had been filled with visions of home.
I miss home a lot more than I did before my two-week vacation. Photos of my friends and family adorn my office at work, and I find myself e-mailing people back home more often. Homesickness has a tendency to sneak up on me (especially around meal times when my options are rice, rice and more rice), but whenever it does I just close my eyes and think of my mom, dad, brother and even my four pesky cats. And then I dream.
(Brandon Taylor is a Tamaqua resident and a former TIMES NEWS correspondent. He is currently a copy editor/language expert for the Beijing Review, an English language weekly newsmagazine. Read his blog at http://btay200. weebly.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)