Years ago there was this news story going around about watermelons that were imploding spontaneously in China's farmlands. The point of the story was China's unchecked use of steroids in growing food and the crazy and obviously less than desirable results. Results like imploding watermelons.
Sometimes re-entry can feel like that. Like you're getting pumped full of all these unnatural elements, these things you're not quite ready to handle again-- and you just might explode from the pressure. Maybe it's the canceled flights and getting packed onto an old bus that takes you to a hotel with no elevator for two days in the blazing, God-forsaken heat. Maybe it's the cockroaches and wheat bugs that infiltrated your apartment while you were away. Maybe it's the broken washing machine accompanied by a language barrier that keeps you from getting it fixed (easily). Maybe it's the need to haul your groceries home by hand and it's so hot you don't think you could cry and be noticed.
Whenever we come back to China, I inevitably go through an imploding watermelon phase. It takes me a little while to get my bearings, to get my attitude in order and my sleep cycle sorted out enough to know if my struggle is really as big as it feels. For those first few days in country, we are so glad to be "home" but are still unsure if we like it here just yet. Ari says there's nothing to eat. Quinn says he doesn't like China because of all the stairs. I'm cursing the size of these cockroaches.
We all get up before the sun, so this morning when it grows light I venture out for milk. The cicadas are humming, so loud it's almost eerie with an oppressive strength that makes you feel like they might be taking over the world. A world now ruled by screeching cicadas. But it also feels like that very first morning we landed in China, and I have a weird nostalgia at the alien sound. I feel that way about all the sights and smells... the wafts of steamed baozi, the way the air hangs with an oily scent of last night's Sichuan feasts, the heavy musk of jasmine blossoms. I walk these familiar foreign streets with a nod in the direction of getting reacquainted. I think we'll make a truce.
But I'm not naive. I can breathe deeply at 6:30 a.m. as I walk the street alone, but there is a lot of life to tackle back home. So my steps are also prayers. To see each inconvenience with patience and not despair. To see each person as struggling as much as I am and in need of as much grace. To find ways to help and not complain, to serve and not demand. And I know that though I walk these streets alone, I'm anything but.
Oh. There's also a pool. And who am I not to remember to give thanks for that blessed pool?