My mom cried at the gate.
We were all so OK saying goodbye: My dad smiled and waved as the shuttle services drove me and my mom from Ocala to Orlando. I gave my sweet dog a kiss on the mouth, and he licked me back. My boyfriend and roommates and friends had dinners and goodbye parties and a bunch of, “See you later”s, and I was OK.
But at 6:30 a.m. when I was third in line to get my boarding pass scanned, my mom’s smile crumpled and small tears started pouring out. She already had a tissue in her hand like she did so many times when I was a little girl crying, like a good mom does.
I lost it.
This trip is very much a going-back-to-my-roots, reflecting-on-who-I-am trip for me. A language barrier has prevented me from learning a lot about my own Taiwanese history and family, and I’ve spent so much time these last three years in school just pushing and pushing toward a job and never stopping to reflect.
So I spent the first three hours of my flight to San Francisco crying. I just couldn’t help it. My mom told me how proud she was of me and how excited she is for me to flourish in Beijing.
Needless to say the first few days here I fumbled.
Luckily enough, we didn’t have to stay in the hostel. I know I said I was looking forward to it, but in my heart of hearts, I wasn’t.
However, there’s that inherent panic involved when you step into a class and have no idea what the professor is talking about. Did I sign up for the next level? Or the right class at all?
That’s what I felt when I set foot in China. Am I ready for this? Can I even read that sign? What’s my Chinese name again?
The sun rises earlier here, and my first morning I walked around from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. I was able to buy some school supplies and food, and I didn’t get lost. Every day since then, I’ve found a new area of campus or gone to a new place in the city. And more and more I’m realizing that its OK that I’m a little lost. I’m not fluent in Chinese. People come to China all the time without speaking any of the language. I’ve taken Chinese for two years. I’ve got this.
The food is plentiful and cheap, but a little greasy and heavy. There’s rarely water at restaurants, and none at all in the dining halls. You can’t drink the tap water and even if you boil it, there’s a nice layer of white sediment that floats not-so-innocently on the top. For the first two days, Beijing was uncharacteristically cold and rainy. Now it’s dry and hot.
But it’s really amazing here. The people so far have been so friendly and helpful with my broken Chinese. When it’s a good day, the smog doesn’t mask the blue summer sky. The Chinese cartoons are a huge hoot to watch and the international dorms where we’re staying are chock full of foreign students. I’ve meet people from France, South Africa, Korea and Norway to name a few. And I’m foreign, too! It’s novel to be the first person someone has met who is from Florida. For the first time, it’s not a bad thing.
I do miss my friends and family a lot. But I’ve made such fast friends here, probably in a way that only studying in China could foster, that I can’t wait for the next three months to unfold.