I’m back in Tianjin and, honestly, not loving it yet… “Tea and Gin” is just one of those cities that needs to grow on you. And it’s taking its sweet time this round. Oh well?

Let’s focus on the past 2.5 months, instead!

This summer was grand / busy / emotional / wonderful / sad / whirlwindy / needed / crazy / too short / worth it. Insert whatever adjective you want and it probably describes it perfectly! In an unexpected turn, I actually didn’t want to return to China. (Don’t worry, I did anyways.) I had a fabulous time with my family and friends and just didn’t want it to end. Alas, it was time to come back and continue my life.

I’m told that the first time going home after living overseas is always the weirdest, so I hopefully did alright? I asked some good friends who’ve lived in East Asia for many years, “How do you balance life in China and life in America?”

Their answer wasn’t what I wanted. They chuckled and said, “You don’t. You just have to get used to the imbalance.”

Here’s to imbalance!

*Leave a comment with what we did together this summer so we can always remember… and make notes for next summer.

Did it still feel like home?

Stone Arch BridgeTough question. The house I “grew up in” was long sold, my sister had moved out, and my dog had gone where all dogs eventually go… in that sense, it wasn’t really home. But my family was still the same, my friends and I picked right up where we left off, and Minneapolis was basically how I remembered it and loved. I just need to learn how to have two homes now.

The first day back, a soon-to-be friend pointed out that I used very simple English and a lot of hand motions and verbal cues when I communicated. He guessed that I must have lived in a foreign country before. Little did he know, I had just returned from one!

And another time, I pulled out some hand sanitizer before a meal (a must here in China!), and my friends looked at me strange and got a good laugh at my expense.

All in all, I’m still an American – I just don’t act and speak like one much anymore, I suppose.

Other changes I observed: Netflix. (I was just getting the hang of it, too.) Food trucks. (Maybe Mpls is trying to be more like NYC?) More bicycles! (My days of lone biking are over.) QR Codes. (I still don’t see the point.) Reality TV. (Out of control! But oh, so addicting.)

Get everything done you wanted?

Twins GameYes and no. Looking back at my calendar, I’m surprised I was able to keep track of everything! In fact, in the 65ish days I was home, I had about 140 different occasions or appointments that were listed. Hmm, that’s more than 2 a day! Oy vey. I’ll have to think of another way to do things next summer…

Some good friends lent me a car, a bicycle, and a record player, and I was so thankful to have those tools to help make my summer more accessible and awesome. I don’t know what I would have done without them, actually.

I had many meals, coffees, and walks around parks. I got to go up to my friend’s cabin on Lake Vermillion, MN, for a few days. I watched and participated in friends’ summer sports leagues. I got to see so many wonderful concerts, including a truly American bluegrass show at least every week. I had a couple weddings to attend. A bad run-in with Americanized Chinese food. I had a memorable day-long roadtrip to Wisconsin. I saw a show at the Guthrie Theater. I saw a MN Twins game at their new stadium. Lots of grilling out on my friends’ decks. Outdoor movies. A Chinese language and culture tutoring session for a business consultant. Lots of shopping for a needed wardrobe. Seeing people I didn’t expect to see. Meeting new babies. Making new friends.

But no, I didn’t get to do everything. And there were many people I didn’t get to see, either… all I can say about that, though, is start planning for next summer!

What’s up next for you?

My lovely studentsBesides readjusting to the wasteland that is Tianjin, I’ve had a great time reconnecting with my friends here and seeing how much of my Chinese has sunk into my language learning iceberg.

I’m teaching at the same university again this year, so my mailing address remains the same… hope that helps! Some of my students actually signed a petition to get me back and the admin gave me a nice little raise so I can live off-campus.

I will be living with a like-minded New Zealand guy who’s been here longer than I have and who’s known to be an excellent cook. I’ve only been moved in for a week, but I can vouch that this is accurate. Should be a great relationship! As long as I continue to do the dishes, I’m guessing.

Also, at the beginning of next month, I’ll be going to Seoul, South Korea for a week for a friend’s wedding out there. It’s during China’s National Day Holiday and I’m really looking forward to visiting a new country and seeing some old friends…