Sunday, July 3, 2011

In which I prove my theory.

We have been back in the US for almost a month now.  It's been pretty smooth and feels pretty natural to be back.  We spent the first three weeks in California, Washington and Canada.  Elisabeth flew to Minnesota for a Teen Re-Entry retreat and we met up in Missouri on Thursday.  Through the generosity of friends, we have a car to drive and a house to stay in during our time here.
While we are here we have to go to the dentist, go to the orthodontist, get a new social security card, re-new a driver's permit, get an adult passport for Elisabeth, take care of our house for new renters...oh and see friends and talk about our time in China!
We've had a few moments of being overwhelmed by noise and input.  We've been thrilled to go to the library, grocery shop and do "normal" American things.  We definitely have noticed that people are on their smart phones all the time and that portion sizes are big.  I've had to remind myself over and over again to cross at the light and that we can't walk against the red light.  Fortunately I have a teenager to keep me in line!
 Driving is great but I've had to readjust my awareness level.  In  China, we just ride our bikes.  There is so much going on on the streets that you just ignore half of it and keep going.  With driving, you can't do that.  I've made a few mistakes-almost hitting a man in a crosswalk in Seattle and turning down a street meant for buses.  But so far, so good- no accidents, no deaths.
However, today I proved a theory that I have about China.  When foreigners first go to China, they are often shocked at the amount of pushing and cutting in line. One of the first lessons that I learned in Beijing was that when the subway doors open, rush forward and get in.  If you don't push forward, the sheer number of people will keep you out.  No one will give way.  I also learned that Chinese people line up for  ATM's a different way.  What I thought was cutting in line was simply a different system and one that I had to learn.
My theory is that the sheer number of people in China makes Chinese people less aware of those around them.  The American habit of greeting total strangers who are walking by is just not possible in China.  As we've lived there for two years, we greet people less, walk in  a crowd with less awareness of who is around us, push forward through crowds, buses and subways.
However, we are in the US for the summer.  I need to re-adapt to American ways.  This morning we went to the Farmer's Market.  I love Farmer's Markets with the blend of Amish, Mennonites, earthy people, mother's and ordinary people.  It also cracks me up because shopping at outdoor markets is how most of the world shops every day...with out the ostrich feathers, native jewelry and honey ice cream.  Anyway, we walked through and looked at all the vegetables, sweet corn and homemade bread.  I saw some tomatoes that were being sold by two Mennonite women so I walked over and picked three and took out my money to pay.
Then I heard a horrified "Mom!  Do you know you cut in line." Elisabeth said it was like watching a disaster in a movie in slow motion. Yes, in true Chinese fashion, I had totally not noticed that there was a line to buy the tomatoes.  A glaring line of people.  No one can glare like American's observing someone cutting in line.  I apologized to the line and to the Mennonite woman and slunk away with my tomatoes.
I knew there would be some re-entry moments but I didn't think they would involved tomatoes.


Alida said...

LOL! We all have our moments!

Sarah Katelyn Imagery said...

That makes me smile!

Sheri said...

:) This is so true! Thank you for reminding me of some very funny moments in China when I glared at Chinese individuals cutting in front of me at the grocery store. They just smiled and nodded at me as if nothing was wrong. Now, I get it, then I did not.

Oh, how I miss the multi-level grocery stores with the magnetic carts! :)

Sheri in Galveston