We took the train home this afternoon. The cloud cover just got thicker and thicker as we followed the Pearl River inland. By the time we got to Guangzhou it was dark and damp – such a different climate from the active air on the shores of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor. Living on a large body of water really keeps the air moving. I think that is the thing I miss most about living inland – most of my life I managed to cling to a coast – either the Atlantic of Lake Michigan. Madison was the worst. The air was just dead – not even one trembling leaf on warm summer nights. Montpelier isn’t so bad. The mountains shake it up enough, I think.
We had a couple of interesting conversations with Hong Kong residents who are ethnic Chinese. They were surprised to learn that we live on the mainland, put out that we are studying Mandarin and not Cantonese (most Hong Kong folks we’ve met would rather speak English than Mandarin), and eager to hear horror stories about life in China. The conversation would go something like this, “How do you feel Guangzhou?” (I take this to be a literal translation that is used a fair bit since we heard it in several conversations). We would say, “It’s OK…” and then usually we get cut off with something like, “It is terrible, awful. I had to go there for work every day for 20 years. Now I stay in Hong Kong.” or “Guangzhou is not good. How do you like Hong Kong?” At which point we would always say that Hong Kong is great (although the sticker shock is quite something). It really is amazing that the two cities are so close, and that only the last 100 years and a well-policed border really separates them.
Anyway, our extended weekend means I really have to scramble to prepare my class for tomorrow – Bakhtin and the dynamics of language. All the same, teaching this seminar is developing my confidence in my ability to teach cultural theory. I really have on OK handle on the subject matter!
Today’s homecoming to Guangzhou indicates a larger homecoming that looms on the horizon. We head back to Vermont toward the end of June and our return is beginning to occupy our time. Whether it is figuring out how to get our dogs home from my brother’s place in Oakland, CA, taking care of kindergarten enrollment for next fall, making doctor’s appointments, or fantasizing about our backyard and food (humus, olives and crusty bread please) our orientation is shifting.