Sometimes its a real struggle to explain what you mean in a foreign language, either you don’t know the word, or perhaps one doesn’t even exist. I was trying to explain to a fellow teacher today during lunch that the fact we are leaving so soon is surreal, and was stumbling through other vocabulary attempting to accurately describe this feeling that I have had since Tuesday. I don’t know what it was about Tuesday, but everything finally hit me then; whether it was everyone else talking about returning or I was unable to continue blocking out the ‘real world’ that awaits me in Boston, my mind set changed. Up to this point everything about home (the food, people, events, etc.) had been in a dream like state, there but untouchable, comprehendible but not truly known or understood, in the same way that the only real way to fathom the taste of a new food is to try it. On Tuesday what has been the tangible life I have lived for the last 4 months switched places, and became this dream that I am, slowly and at the same time abruptly, waking up from. Half of me is ready for a bucket of water so I can snap out if it; while the other half is squeezing my eyes tightly shut attempting to make the inevitable never happen. While it is far from over, one last weekend in Xian and several days in Beijing remain, it is all happening so fast all over again, much like pretravel week. I will try to post a few more times before we touch down at logan; hopefully you enjoyed following along with our adventures in China, they have been GREAT.
Brookline is half a world away: both literally and figuratively. It’s hard to remember what it’s like to walk the quiet streets of Tappan or Corey Farm, Coolidge Corner or SoBro. In every way shape and form, Xi’an is our home. We know 高新路 better than we know Beacon Street, and when we hang out, we go to the Red Brick market or the 回民街 instead of Coolidge Corner or Washington Square. The high school is 高新一中, Amory Park is Lotus Park, and Anna’s is the 包子 shop by the北门儿. The parallels are all there, but the nuances that make China, China are what are going to be so hard to explain once we touch down in Boston.
One of the things we realized on the first week was that the weirdness that makes up China is unexplainable, but we never expected it to become a part of our lives as it has. It doesn’t matter how many conversations over coffees, pizzas, or burritos we have in America with old friends; the only thing we will be able to do is tell stories. Even those, however, cannot fully encapsulate the intensity, adventure, and spontaneity that characterized our time in China.
One of our most dreaded questions upon return will be, “How was China?” Open-ended questions like these are always impossible to answer because any answer more than one word is an unwanted time commitment, because there’s no other way to understand it besides experiencing it firsthand, no better way to respond than “Great!” The stories and the words that we’ll begin to use to answer this question every time it’s asked will soon become ‘set phrases,’ as they call them in China, repeated until they lose much of their meaning, a funny story for everyone who hears it, perhaps, but unrepresentative of our actual time. “Great” doesn’t mean anything; but the “Great”s that we’ll be repeating time and time again will have more meaning and more stories and more depth than any “Great” that we’ve ever said before.
-Diego, Josh, Rachel
Talking to people about our experiences in China will be like using words to describe colors to a blind man. We can walk through the motions of illustrating our lives in Xi’an, but the colors are lifeless, and don’t do the picture justice. How often will we be asked, “How was China? What was Xi’an like?” The thoughts that fly through our minds encompass everything from using squat toilets to conversing with strangers as we bargain for goods. Even in this blog post, these two dimensional words cannot properly express the memories and feelings we associate positively with even the most mundane of tasks.
Although we won’t be able to tell every story to our friends, families, and peers, we can share experiences through our actions in the Brookline community. Instead of talking about how fun it is to dance in public, we’ll just start doing it anyway when we return. Maybe the best way to show everyone how great China was is by showing how it has allowed for us to grow and mature as people.
To have been able to share our experiences, thoughts, and pictures on the group blog was a duty we took on with pride. Not only as something to show friends, family, and curious strangers, but also to serve as a reminder for us in the future. Unfortunately, the blog won’t be a substitute for the real thing; China can’t be contained within posts and pictures, a hard reality we will face from the moment we hear “How was China?”
-Amir, Borja, Izzy, Roy’al, Yeolim