American Fall

There’s a lot that’s hard about right now. It’s hard putting our lives completely on pause and having to rely so much on others. That being said, one thing I am so grateful for is the chance to be back home for fall. This is my favorite time of year in America and the first time I have gotten to be here in autumn in six years. In spite of the pandemic, it has been so nice to enjoy long walks outside among the vibrant trees, indoor festivities with family, and the Halloween spirit. We even got to see snow for the first time since we were in Ukraine two years ago!

It can be easy to dwell on all the things I wish I was doing instead right now. 2020 is a year I think most of us would rather just forget. But I’m trying to remind myself that among the chaos are little moments of beauty that are worth remembering.

Where to even begin…

It’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything….probably because I’ve been grappling with the nightmare that is COVID-19 for about as much time. Having just stepped out of Turkey, which – although a lovely place- was in the grips of economic downturn and political turmoil, we had hoped China would be an era of stability for us. Turns out we were really, really wrong.

Four months in, at the peak of culture shock and just before a much-anticipated Chinese New Year break, the news of a deadly epidemic was spreading like wildfire. Reluctantly, we went on our scheduled vacation to Japan…just days before we were to return, our school and the American embassy sent out a warning not to come back. What was supposed to be two weeks turned into to three months of e-learning, running out one visa and then another (we stayed in Thailand for about a month and a half and in Cambodia for a month). We were dealing with a school that was giving as little information as possible; one day, they would say “don’t come back to China” and the next they would say “buy a ticket and come back now!” When we did eventually go back, we endured a horrific quarantine, replete with anti-foreigner sentiment, being separated from my husband without being informed in advance, and not being fed or given water consistently for the first several days. The whole experience ruined China for me, frankly, which has been hard to deal with after falling in love with being an expat in Turkey.

To add insult to injury, just two weeks after we finally made it back home to Chongqing, my husband and I were laid off for the following school year, along with several other staff members due to declining enrollment.

I didn’t love the school or Chongqing, but it still felt like a punch to the gut. We really only had two choices: take another job in China, or go back to the U.S. to figure things out and be with our families. In the end, we chose the latter. Neither of us could really take much more of China or its schools.

And now here we are in America…which really can’t seem to get its shit together in this pandemic. We had initially toyed with the idea of teaching here, but seeing how political schools have become in all this -using teachers and students as sacrificial lambs for the economy- we just decided to take a year off and live off of our savings. It isn’t ideal, but we are lucky to have that option.

We’ve been back home in Kansas for about four months now, and it’s been pretty boring for the most part. But boring hasn’t been all bad after over a year of frequent turmoil.

All I can hope is that next year will be better.