Since my last post, I've passed a monumental milestone by entering my late 20s. The weekend was perfect--we finished our apartment (pics to come!), except for the part the lazy super has to do, had a lot of close friends over for drinks and boardgames on Saturday night, and then spent Sunday afternoon reading the NYT in Central Park, feeling like total New Yorkers.
One of my friends wrote me a nice birthday card that discussed the idea of zero-displacement: that things and people feel and are so similar that it's hard to remember you were ever gone. I definitely agree with him--it's remarkable how easily Alison and I have fallen back into the fold of New York life and how our relationships have picked up seamlessly where they left off. But even without the beautiful things we brought back with us, including an amazing collage of framed pictures, it'd be impossible to notice three big ways I've changed from China:
1) I'm better at knowing when to pick my battles--10 months being illiterate and unable to communicate with the population-at-large and never knowing 100% of what was happening at CICAMS has taught me when I should speak up to ensure I'm not being taken advantage of (or to ensure I'm not offending anyone!) or when to just keep on truckin', trusting in the general goodwill of humanity.
2) I'm much calmer: Coming back to Sinai and starting to do the whole residency application process is obviously anxiety-provoking. However, Alison and I have navigated much trickier obstacles, so even one as supposedly all-encompassing as residency doesn't seem particularly overwhelming.
3) Inquisitiveness in my home city. I've spent three years living in on 98th and Madison, barely going to 80s/2nd or the Upper West Side and rarely, if ever, going to Union Square, Brooklyn, or Astoria. Basically, I feel that I now know more of Beijing than of NYC. However, between how close and accessible everything seems to be and how pleasant it is to get there on public transportation, my attitude of this city has completely changed. In the three weeks we've been back, I've been on a yacht cruise with a friend from home that left from Wall Street, to the Brooklyn Bridge for dinner with Ben's dad, Tom, all over the Upper West and East Sides to hang out with friends, Harlem to meet with a florist, and Brooklyn to eat dinner with family. NYC is now my oyster ;)
So yes--everything feels the same but I am slightly different ;)
PS My former roommate and his fiance are both children of Chinese immigrants and tested our Mandarin knowledge at the birthday party. Alison did amazingly ;)