These past two days have been challenging for me. Before returning from China I tried to prepare myself for the eventual reverse culture shock. I read articles and answered questionnaires.
But no matter how much I prepared myself mentally I still suffer from reverse culture shock.
One article I read said that I might find myself crying uncontrollably. I have done that in the past. Back in September 2005, I returned home after ten years of living in China. I enrolled back in school and was sitting in the lanai area in front of the library when I saw and overheard a Chinese professor speaking to a Chinese student in Chinese. I understood what they said. A few minutes later I was in the library trying to read a newspaper. Trying is the operative word here because I was weeping. That conversation was a trigger to a flood of memories;good times with students and colleagues and how my Chinese colleagues were very accepting of who I was despite my Asianess.
This week was most challenging for me. I’ve just started my home business and I’m trying to increase my customer base. I’ve had problems with customers not being able to pay for their items as well as dealing with an angry customer.
I’m also writing a new historical novel that takes place in 1937 Nanjing. The research itself is overwhelming. I have to scan through black-and-white photos of rape and massacre victims. I have to read documents about how members of the safety zone committee have had to deal with rotting corpses that were left on the street for a long as six weeks before benevolent societies were allowed to bury them.
I am considering reading this at one of our community readings because not many of my friends know about this atrocity despite the publication of Iris Chang’s book The Rape of Nanking. I did a practice run this past week and got some valuable feedback from my fellow writers.
But believe it or not my researching, writing, and reading of my new novel was just a trigger, not the reason for the outflow of tears.
This year Chinese New Year fell on February 8th. I have also read that I will feel depressed when cultural events in my adopted country roll around. I definitely felt depressed. I had tons of news feeds about the world’s largest mass migration heading home for what Chinese call chun jie. I use to be a part of that mass migration;a sea of black dots at a train station or at a bus station jostling for a spot.
I also read that I should be careful with whom I share my overseas experience with my. My first trip home after my first year in China I gabbed so much about that country that my friends would cut me off in mid thought.I was disappointed that they didn’t share my enthusiasm.
This past weekend the resorts had their Asian Fest at the Queen’s MarketPlace. I knew they would have lion dances and taiko drums. And although it is nothing like the lion dances in Asia I decided to go for my well being, even if it meant I would have to go alone.
This past Saturday was also my hometown’s 23rd annual Cherry Blossom Festival. I was invited by a relative to join them in the festivities but I chose to go by myself given my fragile state of mind. I would prefer to go to these events either by myself, or with someone who has lived overseas, or with someone who has a genuine interest in celebrating Chinese New Year with all the traditional fixings. If I had gone with my relative she won’t understand me.
It was liberating. I could go to the venues at my own pace and not have to wait for someone. I got to play hanafuda cards, paint a cherry blossom tree, see the lions, and watch the taiko drummers. Certainly it would have been more fun to hang out with someone I know. But that person would either have to have overseas experience or an extra dose of patience.