Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Long Way Out

Oceans are big.

I caught a glimpse of the Pacific as my plane dipped over the tips of the mountains into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport this morning. It's the place where the earth stops--with the way the haze hung over the water, there was no seam between sea and sky. It was like looking at the end of the world.

I tried not to think about that.

A lot has happened since my last update here--you know how it is. Plans that sounded cool and interesting when they were months and years away start looming, getting bigger and bigger the closer they get until they're as big as the ocean out the window. And then you wonder what the heck you were thinking.

I'm about to fly across the ocean. I'm about to fly past the end of the world. It's far enough that the 12-hour flight will take more than 26 hours. And then my home will be on the other side of an ocean. My home will be on the other side of the world.

In the months and weeks and days and minutes leading up to now, I've started to suspect that I am peculiar.  The vastness of the ocean does not seem to affect the other exchange students. My hesitant confessions of nervousness about traveling to another continent tend to to elicit a particular kind of smile I haven't yet characterized to my satisfaction, usually accompanied by soft laughs and kind platitudes. It's only Beijing. It's not that far.

But I suppose I've known for a while that my connection to my home was not quite like other people's. My soul lives in Colorado. I cannot feel settled anywhere else, and no matter where I travel, it feels like coming or going depending on the direction to the Rockies.

China is decidedly not in the direction of the Rockies. I'm afraid the roots that still managed to connect me to home when I was in California will be severed, cut off by an impossibly big expanse of intractable sea. I don't know what that will be like. I think it might hurt.

My parents used the word "adventure" about 92 times this morning while they were sending me off. They're right, of course, and I don't mean to drown the fantasticness of this opportunity in my weird flavor of homesick melodrama. The next few months are going to be at least 92 different kinds of adventure. I expect that I will grow more by the advent of June than I have in the years since coming to California, which (from my current perspective) is considerable. I will learn taichi. I will learn to make really good tea. I will speak Chinese like a native and barter like a professional. And I will, most likely, get really bad diarrhea.

It's a long, long trail I'm walking now. I've walked all the way to the trail's end at the edge of the world--and I'm going to keep on walking.