We are now in our old digs on the campus. The apartment has a new coat of paint, a new television, some new headboards, an extra sofa, etc. Once we got here, they brought up the kids old blue table and stools –
apparently they had been keeping them in storage. They put them right back where we used to keep them.
The past few days in Hong Kong, I felt a growing ambivalence about this trip. Why were we doing it again? What was there for us in Guangzhou? I began to suspect that maybe this was going to be a one time thing (which is not the way I usually feel about it – the idea that intermittent return would be likely and facilitated by Jason’s work, my research, etc). I think Jason was feeling the same way (although, to be fair, I think he always felt that way while I have been the one pushing to come back, do Chinese school, etc) because he kept goading me about all of the other places we could be. The ambivalence was resting fairly heavily on me as we took the train up here this morning. It wasn’t that I was regretting this trip but only feeling the vague suspicion that what this trip was going to confirm was that we are done with Guangzhou/China – that the thread is broken, so to speak.
Then we got off the train and hopped into a cab. I told the cab driver where we were going and he understood me the first time. We got to campus and the building and restaurant staff were happy to see us (“You came back!” “They have grown so big!”). The first people we saw were our friends, The Mears, walking through the courtyard. We dropped off our things and headed to lunch. The staff members that knew us all come over to say hi. The kids both seemed happy, Mei-mei especially. We had a little nap and they woke the kids to walk over to the market for some supplies (and to do so at a time when we could be walking past the kindergarten while they were letting out). As we were leaving the building, Wang Shu Li appeared! We talked for a bit then walked over to the kindergarten. Jie-jie saw many of her friends and she quickly became overwhelmed and pretty shy. I think there were the difficulties of the language (she’s rusty) as well as the fact that 36 other kids remember her but she cannot remember all 36 of them. Mei-mei, on the other hand, saw her teacher and ran straight into her arms. She ended up feeling a bit shy afterward when all the other teachers and parents came swooping in. Despite the kids shy-ness, I think it was a good first visit to the school. I completely understand the overwhleming nature of the visit. I felt quite emotional myself encountering that loving and welcoming community after a 6 month absence.
We promised to come and visit again tomorrow afternoon and headed over to the market – bread, mandarin oranges still on the branches, fresh bananas, instant noodles, laundry detergent, etc. On the way back home who should we see by Mei-mei’s pal Wang Fei Fei and her family. They invited us to dinner tomorrow night – at first they invited us to the same place we went last time and then they decided we should try something new. It felt like we were picking up right where we left off. We got home, dropped off our things and met our friends for dinner – the Mears family and Becky – one of the most helpful friends we had last year. Becky showed all the pictures of the girls on her cell phone.
And that ambivalence I had coming in has washed away. Instead, I feel happy, comfortable and welcome. Even Jason turned to me and suggested that he could see staying here and living our Guangzhou life for a month or two. It is as if returning to this place bridges the gap between our experience here last year and our everyday life in Montpelier. At least right now it feels like we don’t have to choose one life – we can have both in their turns.