On Saturday night we visited the Oriental Pearl TV Tower to see the beautiful views of the sunset over Shanghai. I'll share photos in another post. The thing that hit me though, was right upon entering the viewing platform high above the ground, they had decals on the windows, pointing out the direction of other areas of China, and their distances from the tower. The first one I laid my eyes on was Macau.
It hit me pretty hard. We've now been in Shanghai for over two months. We've been in our new flat for one month. We are trying our best to settle in. But I felt such an overwhelming longing for Macau that took me by surprise.
Funny, while living in Macau I never felt homesick for America. Oh sure, I missed In-N-Out Burger and good Mexican food like mad, and I wanted desperately to see my Mom and Dad and our friends and family, but I never for a moment wanted to leave Macau and move back there. One thing that really helped keep homesickness at bay was living so close to Hong Kong and visiting there at least once a month. After all, Hong Kong was once home for us. Going back to visit familiar places and faces is comfortable and comforting when things are strange and frustrating.
So here we are in Shanghai, 1233 km from Macau and 1230 km from Hong Kong, according to the window decals. And on the surface, Shanghai is much more like Los Angeles than either of those two places. But dig a little closer and the differences are vast and frustrating. And they make me miss the quirky place I came to know so well.
Monday evening I came down with a full blown case of homesickness. I miss the established life I made for myself, I miss my friends, I miss the easily mastered bus system and the patina of rust covering everything. Trying to think positively, I imagined our family three years from now, when Michael's current contract is up. I imagined Nathan getting ready to enter his freshman year in high school (gulp), Ben in middle school (my baby), and me feeling nostalgic over our time here in Shanghai. I'll be saying tearful goodbyes to my friends here, visiting my favorite places just one last time, all while we pack up house again to move to our next location.
I know it will come again, that feeling of having an established life and a regular routine with dear friends who I make crazy memories with. It's just this beginning part which is really tough. Especially as most of the dear friends I'm currently making crazy memories with are moving away come September. In the back of my head is the realization that I'll be on the hunt for new friends once again quite soon.
But looking at the photo below of our family with our former homes of Hong Kong and Macau in the (very far, invisible) distance, I am reminded that though my faults and weaknesses are many, these are my gifts, my talents: creating a home wherever we roam and quickly establishing deep and lasting friendships. I've done it before, I can do it again, with style and aplomb.
It will be okay. Shanghai is like a big Christmas tree, with innumerable presents beneath its branches, all addressed to me. Every new friend, every fascinating discovery, every delicious plate of enchiladas at Pistolera, is like opening another brightly wrapped gift. And one day, when they are all opened and our time here is through, I am confident that I will be homesick for this place too.