Heaven holds a sense of wonder....
I have been wished a happy Thanksgiving more often this week than I ever have been in my life. And it's not Thanksgiving for me. I'm Canadian, it was last month some time.
I only have one regret about the timing of my leaving Canada. Kris said to me in the week before I left, "Well, do you want to have a Thanksgiving meal or something before you leave?"
"Um, no," I replied. (Probably sharply, I was a real bitch right before I left. In my more charitable moments I blame it on nerves, but I think I should just blame it on being a bitch.)
It didn't occur to me that Thanksgiving weekend was the same weekend I was leaving, and that, with me gone, Kris wasn't going to really have a Thanksgiving.
I mean, it's always been a non-holiday for me, an excuse to eat pumpkin pie and get a day off school, or get paid more for working it. It just truly didn't occur to me at all that there was Thanksgiving in 2003.
I think the holidays are going to be really hard for me, though. It already seems impossible that it's almost the end of November, when I haven't heard Christmas music at all, when I haven't seen snow, there's no Christmas decorations in any of the stores... how can it already be Christmas time? What the heck is going on?
My mother tells me that she'll make her special Christmas Cake for me when I get home. She's been sending me this stuff every year since I left home, and it means Christmas to me. Christmas tree or no, Christmas dinner or no, Christmas is my mom's care package. I know she's sent me something, but I don't know when it will get here. On some level I think, What difference does it make? It's one year of living abroad. It's not like there won't be other Christmases for crying out loud. But, it matters.
I wonder at how other ex-pats can do it, and I wonder at the communities that they've formed. Living in China has taken off, and I know that there's a lot of Chinese bloggers that flock to each other's websites, creating their own communities around them. After having spent the day with a group of overseas students learning Chinese in Nanjing, I'm so jealous of the community that they've formed. They'll do something for Christmas, I'm sure. Me? I'm trying to decide if I want to even acknowledge there's a holiday in December, since I have to work during it anyway.
I guess dealing with the holidays when you're far from home means making your own traditions, ones that show where you're from, where you are, and where you're going. I haven't figured out where I'm going yet, and I'm still defining where I've been. The process is confusing. It's taking what's important to you, and making that the focus of your celebration, while bringing in the parts of this new culture that you enjoy.
I just feel like I haven't made a home here, like I'm just... waiting for something to happen, for lack of a better description. Waiting for that sense of home to come to me, and it doesn't seem to be. I don't know if it's because I haven't given myself enough time, if it's the culture shock, if it's because of what I've left behind, or if it's just because I don't want to connect here. It's so easy to just explore the city without connecting with the people, to teach my classes without ever making friends with the teachers, to sit here in my apartment, reading about living in China without actually doing it.
When Scarecrow went to Japan, he told me he never really suffered from culture shock because he's always felt like an outsider in his life. Being an outside in Japan was just... well, normal for him, I guess. For me, it's different. Back home, I always had someone I could talk to, confide in, laugh with, or yell at. It's varied over the years, but there's always been some friend some place. I never realized how much I used that support network until suddenly it was gone. I'm convinced that I'll eventually find someone here that I can relate to, that I can dream with, but right now, I'm struggling.
I started this out in one place, and ended up someplace else entirely. I think that's a good metaphor to end this with.