It's been awhile since I've been this homesick - since my first few months of Nigeria.
It might stem from the fact that I'm not going home to Minnesota for the first summer in my life. It might be that I'm starting to realize that I'm in China (not three minutes ago I could be heard saying, "Holy cow! How did I get to China!? When did that happen?!?"). It could be that I'm just now finding myself not quite so mind-numbingly-busy-with-school-and-drama-and-fellowship-and-spring-trips-and-living-in-CHINA busy that I am actually having time to process the fact that I am not home.
It's easy, here in Qingdao, to deceive myself - to feel almost as though I'm in America. The ease of transportation, the sense of community in the fellowship that I attend, the amenities that are available here. . . much of it feels familiar, and much of it takes the place of the things I have left behind.
Under a Western facade, the city of Qingdao is still very much China. There are manifold differences from the U.S. in mindset, liberties, culture, language, and values. And while I love being here, I am also beginning to enter a time of longing for the familiarity of America.
It's interesting the things you miss when you move overseas. It's not so much the big changes that shock you. It's not the drastically different mindsets or the gigantic shift in language or the new and sometimes challenging foods. What you miss are the smaller things that you take for granted when you are in your home country: that I can't go out in a kayak whenever I want to; that I can't drive here; that Target is an awesome store; that the smells here are different than the smells there; that no one here has known me for more than a year.
So I find myself being homesick for stupid things - the parking lot of a Target, the smell of the neighbors having a barbecue, the satisfaction of mowing the lawn, music that I can understand in the stores. Things that would not satisfy if I were to get them. Who wants to spend time in a Target parking lot, after all.
There is one possible explanation for the homesickness that I'm feeling which I did not include in the list above. And I think it's the most important one. This is now the longest I've been away from the people I know and love the most. Ever.
Skype is great. Facebook is wonderful. Blogs are insightful, and email is a blessing. But none of it is the same as getting a hug from my dad. Or smelling my mom's perfume. Or driving on a bumpy farm road with my sister. Or playing with my nephews on the floor. Or sitting down for coffee with my friends.
I don't want things to change here. I love Qingdao, and I'm planning on staying for quite awhile still.
But I wish, in vain, that there was a way to have both.
EDIT: A good friend here just posted about a similar topic on his blog, and I thought I would link it in case you are interested. Definitely worth a read.