Frankfurt Main Airport, Tuesday the 16th of December, 6am: Coming home, after about 15 months in Asia, felt decidedly strange and weird, everything seemed so ordered, even this early in the morning, with the break of dawn another two hours away. All around me everything seemed quite familiar yet completely different. The long flight didn't excite me in the least though, so these past couple of weeks whenever my Chinese friends asked me how I felt about going home my reaction was a tangled mess of emotions. When you've got to conquer a long-haul flight and some nasty jet lag it's hard to look at what's waiting for you beyond all that...until you actually get there!
But home is home and it will always be home, even though I haven't actually lived at home for nearly ten years. I had a lovely time in Frankfurt with my sister and her friends but Frankfurt won't ever be home...or feel as familiar as my hometown. It's one of my favourite cities but it lacks something I can't quite put my finger on.
I have to admit though, my first thought about being back in cosy, little Koblenz (in the heart of the Rhineland-Palatine) was "too small". Frankfurt is big yet the outskirts are small but compared to China it still almost seems like a village and compared to Wuhan my hometown feels like a tiny, tiny village somewhere in the depths of the woods.
When I first arrived in Frankfurt, I felt so happy about seeing my sister but jet lag and a bad stomach due to unfamiliar food (saying is downright seems laughable) made it hard to feel really happy and there is someone in China whom I miss so I felt a bit homesick. Now that I'm home and reunited with my dad I feel ridiculously happy and at home. There is proper Heintze-coffee (among friends and family this is what we call the coffee my dad makes, I still think he puts a little love in every cup so it always seem to taste better than when I make my own coffee), there's good food and I have time to look through some old memorabilia in the depths of the drawers in my room, I can debate with my dad and enjoy his simple but delicious cooking, but most of all I finally have time to read. I spent the entire morning reading a magazine from front to back and now I've picked up a book from one of my favourite Irish writers, Maria Duffy. I did plan to go for a walk earlier but I haven't really had time to read much more than a couple of articles so I didn't especially feel the need to venture past the four walls of my dad's apartment.
I don't think I ever got a bout of culture shock after arriving in China, at least nothing that I vividly remember, although I certainly have my five minutes every now and then where everything pisses me off just a little. It passes and then I move on with my life. I did get a bit of culture shock when I got back though...people around me suddenly seemed considerate enough to apologise for bumping into me or helped me heave my heave suitcase out of the train...that definitely felt special. It was a nice and welcome change. On the other hand, I do discover certain Chinese characteristics in me, like for example when waiting for customer service in a shop makes me want to snap at the shop assistant and demand service, my patience level is extremely low and after only a few seconds I found myself thinking "I'm waisting my time here". I held my tongue yesterday but I can't garantuee that it will always work, I'm afraid I might slip up somewhere, which I reckon won't go down so well with the person at the receiving end of my wrath.
On the other hand, then there is that surprising but not unwelcome feeling in the pit of my stomach when the cashier in the shop wishes me a happy holiday instead of treating me with utter indifference like the staff in my local supermarket in Wuhan like to do. In Kengee (a bakery near my apartment in Wuhan) it seems so fake when all of them loudly chant 下午好 (Good afternoon!) when you walk into the store. It seems so fake and almost scary because it feels like a military greeting, like a bunch of soldier responding to an order, and not warm, kind and polite. But the cashier here smiled and so I wished her a happy holiday too and that was that.
You seem to become somewhat indifferent to some of the coldness that surrounds daily life in China but it melts away almost immediately when you return home. Still, it feels like a tiny shock every time I find myself appreciating some some gesture I suppressed over the last year and a half. If I let myself miss all those things that are normal in Germany (or even Ireland) I fear I'll end up deeply unhappy, so I ignore their existence until I get back to familiar territories.
I'm home. I've had an exciting 15 months in Asia, packed with many amazing things but sadly also too many things I'd rather forget for good. For now though, boy does it feel good to be around the people I love. My first thought upon arriving was that I no longer fit in and that life in Germany is too slow and too different from what I'm currently used to but I think this leopard can change her spots as required. I'm loving China and I'm also loving Germany...or should I say I love the people more? And the fact that I have time to read!
So far nothing crazy has happened but I'm having a jolly good time. More updates to follow.
In the meantime I shall leave you with this gem:
I forgot the adapter for my iPhone charger at my sister's so my dad improvised to a) save me from having to buy a new adapter and b) keep my phone from dying. Having a dad who is an electrician and generally knows just about everything about electric devices and various household installations is more than a little awesome. My dad is super cool, he's rock'n'roll! I do have the bestest dad in the world! Yes there is some bias there but I just don't know any daddy's girl who doesn't put her dad on the highest pedestal available. Sometimes it gets so bad that I will rip people's head off for saying bad things about my dad. Nobody's perfect but anyone who dares to talk ill about my dad will end up in my black book and once you're in there it's pretty much impossible to get back out. Sadly I had a little run-in with one of my sister's friends while in Frankfurt. She said a few things that she shouldn't have said and it made me very angry and probably even happier to finally be at home...with daddy!