If there are things left to do besides packing, I am going to forget about them on purpose.
My parents and brother are coming to spend the day with me and my sister, take us to dinner, and say goodbye at the airport tomorrow. I’m still holding the reality of the move at bay, but I can kind of imagine I’ll be doing that even as I am actually, physically in Beijing.
When I tell people where I’m going (a friend’s mother’s friend, the bank teller), they all seem to know other people who have either been to China or have taught or studied abroad elsewhere. (“Studied a broad?” my dad says. “Sign me up for that class.”) They have encouraging stories to relate–their friend or acquaintance really loved the experience–even as their eyes widen in a glad-it’s-not-me kind of way.
Their judgments–always kind, often incredulous, sometimes pitying–leave me helpless. I want to correct their opinions of me. I’m afraid they’re seeing someone worldly, someone who thrills to the adventure of hopping on a plane and running off to the other side of the world, someone who underestimates the difficulty of culture shock and adaptation. When, in fact, I have never done anything even approximating this before, and I am frankly scared shitless if I stop too long to think about what I’m doing. Jumping in with my eyes closed seems like the only way to do this at all.
To control the anxiety, I try to think about it in terms of a job, which it is. The job happens to be exactly twelve hours in the future from my current life, but it is still a new job. Ideally I’ll be so occupied with training, meeting the students, and studying TEFL theory and Mandarin that adjusting to the city and country won’t be half as difficult as adjusting to the new job.
There are only a few things I think I’m going to miss, besides the obvious: people. The list is so I can compare my expectations later on with reality. It’s science! And luckily, it’s a pretty short list. I don’t think I’ll miss that much–I try not to get very attached to things, because they just don’t matter, but some things have wormed their way into my heart over the years.
THINGS I WILL MISS THE MOST (in theory)
- Fluffy red bathrobe (too large to pack, too warm of a climate to need)
- Books/libraries containing books written in a language I can read (I did buy Les Miserables for the planes!)
- Variety of cuisine (I am so excited for Chinese food but I can’t imagine I’ll be able to satisfy my Thai or Indian cravings–unless I go to Thailand or India…!)
And then of course I’m thinking of the nostalgia of leaving a familiar place for an unfamiliar one: there is so much to be said for home. It takes a while to get to know a city! They’re harder to really know than people, because they contain so many people as well as shortcuts, trees, architecturally interesting buildings, restaurants, nightlife and morninglife, and all the myriad other characteristics that knowledge thereof turns a whole throbbing city into a home. I can’t wait to start learning about Shenzhen.
There! I’ve been multitasking. DTE has been successfully switched over to my sister’s email account. Now I just need to return all 19 of my library books and DVD’s, drop some things off at the Salvation Army, and continue the packing frenzy.