Thursday, August 21, 2008


And Will comes back from China. It's almost 1am here in Orlando (that's right, in America), but I think my strategy for quickly overcoming jetlag has backfired. I left Beijing August 20th, at 4:10pm and arrived in Chicago August 20th, 3:50pm (it was a fast plane). Florida is twelve time zones away from Beijing, so when I got on the plane I tried to think of it as being 4 in the morning. "Just like a night out clubbing," I thought to myself. "Although this airplane seat isn't as comfortable as Emma's couch." I slept until around 11, then decided I should be awake until I got home. That way my body would be convinced that it really is night. But I'm afraid I've held out so long it thinks night has just skipped and I'm already on a new day. Gives me energy for a blog entry.

The guy I sat next to on the plane was a Chinese guy with bad English coming to America for grad school. It reminded me of me seven months ago. I had to explain how to put on an airplane seatbelt, and helped him fill in his customs card, and taught him the word "soda." All in Chinese.

In general I felt pretty good about my Chinese leaving. Someone forgot to stamp my ticket saying I had gone through security, and a random American next to me knew the word "to stamp" when they questioned me about it. I'm not perfect. But I understand some things. I recently learned 乘客是上帝, the Chinese equivalent of "the customer is always right." And then the Chinese guy two over from me used it, only in English: (to the stewardess hassling him about asking for ice too late) "But the customer is God."

Arriving in America I felt out of step, like a marching routine that I haven't done in a long time and isn't instinctual any more. I was in Chicago trying to sort out Verizon's ridiculous rules about getting my phone working. ("I need the primary account holder [my mom] to approve me helping you." If I could call my mom to ask permission, I wouldn't need to talk to Verizon.) An older woman comes up to me trying to shuffle me toward a terminal. I told her I wasn't sure where I was going, and she went off to ask her supervisor to help me or something. When she came back toward me, I said to her, "Hey, I think I actually got it worked out."

"Don't call me 'hey,'" she says. "But that's good." I was so thrown off. "Sorry," I apologized, trying to think of what I was supposed to have said. Lao dama isn't English, nor is nainai...

Then on the subway I was watching people interact and heard a middle-aged guy say to his son, "Did you hear what I said to your mom when she left us?" Then he noticed I was looking in his direction and paused, sizing me up. "Mind your folly," he said, pointing his finger at me and going back to his loud monologue. I don't even know what that phrase means. I spent the rest of the subway ride a little confused.

But now I'm home. Rosie remembers me. I ate toasted Little Caesar's bread sticks and an apple that I picked right out of our gigantic refrigerator.

I think I'll post once more, a kind of summing up of everything. Because now, I'm back! And I'm glad life is still interesting.


David Griffen said...

Welcome back Will!
Sounds like you had a confusing re-entry, heh. The Subway story is a little funny though. I hope you can tame your jet lag soon!

Aunt Gwen said...

I checked this morning to see if you got in okay-I didn't really expect that there would be a new post already! Welcome back!