Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's Just All So Big.

Everything seems so very big here. Shopping carts are twice the size and seem like giant cavernous oil barrels tucked against my belly, waiting to suck my wallet dry. The cars are big, the refrigerators (oh for the freezer space!), the milk cartons (a gallon? all at once??), the sinks. Even the cleavage is big in this country. Or at least it's big in your face and I've become so accustomed to and thankful for the mismatched but charmingly covered up styles of China.

Bigger... the yards, that everyone has (as least in suburbia), the heights of the counter tops which my lower back is singing the halleluiah chorus over, the bread loaves, the drinking glasses. It's almost like leaving a land of miniature play things and finding yourself in Papa Bear's Too Big Chair (or bed, or bowl of porridge). It feels like it doesn't fit, or you don't fit, or to be slightly less dramatic, like you shrank to about half your size.

I remember feeling this way, though in flip-flopped proportions, when we first arrived in China. Everything seemed so small. The counter tops were my first sign, then the shopping carts. All I had was some saltine crackers and Ramen soup (nothing else looked familiar) and my cart already seemed full. I wanted to cry, mostly just because nothing looked familiar.

But now all that seems normal, and this seems like a strange forgotten world. That's the funny thing about all this culture hopping- they are both my worlds now. I run the neighborhood streets here and my mind jumps back to Jayme Vanheusen* from the 6th grade and how she was the first one to get a bra and be kissed by a boy, and I pass the house of the guy I once had a crush on and the coach I couldn't stand. A breeze blows in the backyard and I can almost taste those nights when the cloak of autumn surrounded me and all I could do was dream of going far away to college.

This world that seems so strangely foreign right now also shrinks up against my skin like cling wrap- it knows who it once held and I am not a complete stranger to it. Such a strange sensation to be here and feel like the time that I once lived here is lifetimes away, and yet the home that sits uppermost in my mind and heart is on the other side of the world and seems almost like a dream when I'm bombarded with all this Bigness.

And my kids are so confused. Where we've left and where we are and where we're going and where Daddy is and where we're returning to and when he's coming and what the name of this city or country or state or who knows what is... it's all a toss up.

I like it though, in a confused and unsettled sort of way. I like that I don't live here now, and that my friends are from Australia, the Philippines, Korea, and California (that's like another country, right?). I'm thankful we can come here to enjoy mixed greens from my dad's garden and feta and sliced turkey breast like it's no big deal, but also know that many of these comforts are not expected or supplied in most of the world. And that's not even to say that we do without very much in China. We have a lot. But it's different than here, and did I say this before? Everything here is bigger.

*obviously, that's not her real name.


  1. I love reading your blogs, its like curling up with a good book. You are a great writer.
    love Marge xo

  2. Welcome to Wonderland, Alice :-)

  3. So get this whole scene. We've lived in China for 6 years now and we are still learning what to label 'normal'.

  4. Christine. Perfectly said.