Years ago, I posted about my daily walk in Shenyang. I made that walk so often going to Chinese class and the gym. My view is different now that we’re back in South Carolina. I still think of that vined archway that isn’t there anymore, the guitarist playing for small bills in the tunnel under Qingnian Dajie, and the way the buildings tower above. I miss it.
Within a week back in the US, my friend D told me that I would grow tired of the question, “Are you glad to be back?” Well, of course we are. We’re glad to be back in a country where we can read everything and understand. We’re more capable of navigating the politics and bullshit. But people don’t ask that question in the same way we answer it. People ask as though it’s a comparison. “Glad” to be back here rather than still in Shenyang, as though the last five and a half years were tragic somehow. A hardship. And being back is better. It’s difficult to be with people who don’t think about or appreciate our life there, and that we miss it from time to time. But at least some people ask something.
This is part of culture shock. Or maybe it’s just part of every day life. Folks go on about their business. Maybe they ask questions so they can answer it themselves. Or they ask questions about only that which they know. Many just live their lives in a state of comparison.
I’d rather live this life than that life. I’d rather be a country mouse than a city mouse. I’d rather be like me than be like her. Well, you know what? I’d rather Daniel Craig acknowledge that he is my secret boyfriend. I’d rather peanut M&M’s were actually good for you. I’d rather be sure that Glenn is still alive.
So, yes, I am glad to be in the United States, where life in Smalltown, America is pretty darn good. I am glad that my morning walks are highlighted by blue skies and red brick. I am happy to drive my little car down highway 29 every morning, saying hello to the cows on my way to work.
But I would be happy there too. It isn’t a question of rather.