The Point of No Return

January 17, 2012

I think I am making a break that I didn’t fully recognize as such until now.

For these four months I have been in Beijing, I have gone the route of full immersion. This means the vast majority of my friends have been Chinese, which of course means I haven’t been going out much and time has had almost no chronos meaning. We meet people after work, not at 7 pm. We agree to “chat again on the matter” instead of agree to handle a specific matter in a specific way. And I have infinite, endless patience.

And then I realized my world was feeling cold and colorless with no dance, no stimulating conversation, no impractical late nights, no art of flirtation, and I decided that the time had come: I would make expat friends. And in one week my world changed.

Foreign roommate, new foreign social club, foreign bars, foreign food, foreign conversation, foreign hookah, foreign flirtation, glorious, blessed, stimulating foreign-ness. One weekend passes.

Yet another Chinese friend date canceled with no notice, but I contact my old roommate for dinner, and he has no plans, and so we set a time to meet. And the time comes and he doesn’t respond to my texts and so I call, and then it turns out he has chosen the most nonsensical location for food, and I do not smile and I do not agree amiably, for it seems I have reached that point of no return. And I throw a temper tantrum and we can’t understand each other’s languages and so he waits for me where I say we should meet and he is smiling as calmly and welcomingly and sweetly as he did the day he and his wife welcomed me into their home, the way he always smiles, unrushed, unassuming, happy to see a friend. And I relax, and we eat, (and my foreign friends text, and my foreign friends email) and I am sad that such peaceful, unplugged living can not satisfy me for long. And I am sad that I cannot be more long-suffering, more adaptable, more forgiving, as my exquisite Chinese hosts are forever long-suffering, adaptable, forgiving, for me.

And I am sad because, past that point of no return, how will I ever learn Chinese?

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