Well, I've returned home from the East, although it doesn't feel much like home with the Shires in Wisconsin and my heart in China. What a trip! I felt very relaxed and peaceful while I was there, but the time was so full that I haven't had time to process everything yet. It felt so natural to be there. All of Matt's students and colleagues welcomed me as if I was a long lost friend (or celebrity in the case of some of the students). I think it's safe to say that this has been the most special and memorable December of my life. As long as the flights were and as frustrating as the security trying to re-enter America was and as heartrending as it was to say goodbye to Matt again, I would happily do it all over again. Many times.
I crossed the Pacific, reunited with Matt, explored Xiaogan, learned to talk a bit slower so the Chinese students (and leaders) could understand me, met all of Matt's students and colleagues, introduced Matt's roommate, Will (from Cameroon), to A Charlie Brown Christmas, learned how to use chopsticks, began to appreciate drinking hot water, became adjusted to the lack of heaters everywhere, rode an overnight train for the first time, saw all of the sights in Beijing, saw my second of the Seven Wonders of the World (the first was the Colosseum, which I didn't actually visit, just drove past, so it doesn't really count), watched LOTR, dodged traffic, squatty-pottied, learned how to make applesauce, laughed really hard a lot, schmoozed with the Chairman of the college and the mayor of Xiaogan, sang karaoke, experienced a Cameroon style Christmas dinner party, took taxis, climbed six flights of stairs at least two times a day, watched Matt in action teaching his classes, sang in front of many students and leaders of Xiaogan, slid down an enormous Alpine slide, fell in love with tangcu liji (糖醋鸡 - sweet & sour chicken), ate a lot of rice and noodles, gained a (small) appreciation for eggplant, traversed a dark and dusty attic multiple times daily, got used to being stared at and having pictures taken of me by strangers wherever I went, sent a heart-shaped Chinese lantern into the night sky with Matt and his students from the roof of his apartment, celebrated New Year's Eve (observed), stood under the mistletoe, learned several Chinese phrases, listened to fireworks everyday, and so much more.
Stay tuned for the promised blog on fancy-pants dinners and karaoke, as well as a few other thoughts. For pictures of the trip, check out my facebook in the days to come as I've run out of picture space on this blog.