I typically make this blog about discoveries I find in Qingdao or about life as an expat in China. I try to avoid anything too personal and stick with more of the general ups and downs on life as an expat, as a mother, and as a wife, so others can laugh (or cry) at my stories, mistakes, misunderstandings, and all those little triumphs in between.
But today, I can’t avoid talking about “it”. It’s November 9, 2016, and today was my country’s election. It’s weird to say “my country” because I haven’t lived in the US in over 7 years for hubby’s work. Living in China for this long, you just learn to get by, go with the flow and appreciate the good and try to ignore the bad. But there has always been that silver lining…someday we would leave and go back. Back to the familiar, back to loved ones, back to my Cracker Barrel, Hot Dog Heaven and Trader Joes – everything we consider home. It has always been that light at the end of this long and windy tunnel of living on the other side of the world. Life in China, away from friends and family, has been longer than expected but always temporary. We’ll go home… one day.
And just like that, this afternoon, my home diabolically changed. The US where my parents proudly immigrated to, Ohio where they raised me, and North Carolina where hubby and I decided to move and raise our family, suddenly looked unfamiliar to me. I waved at them, they glared right past me and just kept walking. I felt invisible, alone, and abandoned. Complete and utter grief pulled me into a state of sadness, making me rethink where my home really is, or even question if it’s mine anymore.
It felt like everything today was in slow motion. As simple as it would be outside of China to switch on the TV and hear news in real time, for us in Mainland it is a teensy bit more complicated. Satellite TV has a tendency to just suddenly black-out or internet gets blocked at the most crucial times. Of course, out of all days, it happened today when John King stood frozen in front of the electoral map. Right before I was about to yank the TV off the wall, I remembered hubby’s little lesson on “if this should happen, do this xyz”. I used my phone’s data plan as a portable hotspot then connected it via Bluetooth to my IPAD which then required a VPN to stream CNN. If it sounds complicated, it was, but firewalls and censorship be damned! Nothing was going to separate me from Jake, Anderson and Van at a time like this.
In the states, I would be watching with a group of my family and friends, like it was Super Bowl Sunday. Chips, salsa, beer and the kids making plenty of noise in the background. Here in China, watching all of this unravel, the mood was painfully silent. It was just my friend Renee and I witnessing the fate of our country together in quiet disbelief. Intermittent conversations with family and friends through WeChat, quick calls, or shots of emails back and forth sharing our thoughts, our predictions, and crushing disappointment. When it was all over, we had to hang up. We had to say goodbye. They had to go to bed. I needed to pick up my kids. I needed to make dinner, help with homework and get ready for the next day.
As time goes on, I am hopeful it can eventually heal this heartbreak. That this shock will halt and the pace will slow down. And one day all of this will make sense and understanding will persevere. But in the meantime, I mourn. Mourn and cry for the country I considered home.