Welcome Back

Published 2006-11-11

I’m given to understand culture shock comes in stages. I don’t know what those stages are and I’m kind of loathe to find out. But I think we’re in a stage now where we compare everything here to life in Portland. Barely an hour goes by when I don’t think of something else I miss. We really miss the rain for Pete’s sake. The homesickness is abetted by our job situations which, to put it politely, are not only less than ideal (which we expected) but also less than was promised (which we did not).

During my last serious jag of under- and un-employment (2001–2002) I could take some solace in a life well lived. Conversely, if our jobs were better, China would be more fun than it currently feels. From the spoiled-Westerner point of view, you pretty much need either a> happy work life or b) happy life life.

So: News:

  • Jenny and I hired a Mandarin tutor, a nice-seeming guy named Mr. Yu who also tutors a few expat families with kids at the school. We’ve only had one lesson but it feels a little like we’re back in the game, language-wise. On that topic: many (most?) of the foreigners we know speak less Mandarin than we do, and I frankly don’t know how they survive. You can’t give directions or order food in English, for example. I guess you can get pretty far with pointing and grunting.
  • I went bowling last week which was pretty much like bowling in the states (run-down mid-80s vibe, half-empty lanes, jokey college kids on one side, and the serious 200+ average guy with his own ball on the other), but with better service
  • Thai food is worse here than in Portland. A lot worse. I don’t think this is because it’s “bad” here, but rather that it’s just so very good in Portland.
  • The weather is now always exactly the same. 26C, dry and hazy. Air pollution of all kinds (smoke, haze, smog, dust) is omnipresent. This week I stepped outside during the day and was hit with an odor exactly like L.A. smog. You know the homesickness is bad when you’re homesick for L.A.