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.

“Come what come may, time and the hour run through the roughest day.”

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View from my living room window, from which I will be sulking all weekend.

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.

It was a promising Friday; not a cloud in the sky after a grey and frigid week.  I had reservations at a rather nice spa hotel, poised to spend a relaxing weekend away with my Valentine.  I should have known this scene was just the calm before the storm, much like the  deceptive vision of Inverness poor Duncan never could see through.

Can you tell I’ve been up to my eyeballs in Shakespeare?

We loaded up our bags and headed to the train station, asked for two tickets to Eskişehir, and…

Bugün yok.” (There aren’t any today.)

There was a tiny sliver of me that wanted to scream and shout until they gave me my way (which the guy behind me did for about thirty minutes after being told the same thing), but to be honest, I’ve just been here too long.  I know that this is how Turkey works.  Sometimes the menu lists 30 items when the restaurant only serves 3 of them; sometimes the website says the seats are there and the train station tells you the opposite.  Consistency is not a strong cultural value here and I’ve learned to accept that.

Without saying much, my husband and I calmly walked across the street to drown out our sorrows in lahmacun.  The circumstances may have sucked, but I couldn’t have asked for better company.  We embraced an attitude of self-schadenfreude and let the day be what it was.

Alas, “what’s done cannot be undone.”

***For a more upbeat ending to this tragedy, check out Sir Ian McKellen as Macbeth here.  My students are always so surprised to see Gandalf in such a different light.***