Home is where the heart is, as they say. Whoever the proverbial “they” might be. Now that I’ve returned to China, I sometimes feel that I belong here more than back home. Not that my family’s bi-level house set in a quiet residential neighborhood just past the Lansdale-Hatfield border will stop being my home. Nor will those memories of playing Black Widow croquet in the backyard or disputing a certain questionable answer to Scattergories ever be gone. But Lansdale is not my home anymore.
My home is in China. I live in an apartment building that serves as a hotel and housing for foreign teachers. We each have two rooms that consist of a bedroom and living room. Each apartment also comes with a Western toilet and three squatty potties (You can guess which one I use). In each of the rooms, I have some furnishings including a closet, two desks, a bed, a sofa, a refrigerator, and a water cooler. And for nighttime entertainment, I can choose between a TV with one English news channel and various Chinese channels or a laptop with access to Youku and Kanmeiju, provided the streaming works well. But that’s more my house in China. It’s not what I would call home.
Home is waking up to the freshmen students chanting in unison as they perform military drills on campus. Home is catching up with old friends and swapping stories over a Korean BBQ. Home is consoling fellow teachers over their schedules and reminiscing about former students and classes. Home is biking along Tangdaowan Bay and reveling in the ocean’s magnificence. Home is consuming a bowl of oatmeal at 7am before teaching a graduate class. Home is waiting to eat jiaozi and eggs in Yulan Hall as you’re jostled by hundreds of students searching for a meal.
I may not have an identity crisis this time, but I certainly have a housing crisis. And I think it’s a good thing. I may not ever fully integrate into Chinese society, but at least I have a sense of belonging, a sense of connection, as it were. Some cultural practices may still continue to puzzle me or annoy me, but I can’t deny that Western culture has its own oddities too. Our cultures may divide us, but our humanity should unite us. Lansdale will never stop being my home, but I can now call China my home too.