China without Stick is strangely familiar. The children hanging on the hutong’s gate, waiting to see the foreign woman, remind me of the Yantai children, watching on the steps of my apartment and shouting to their friend when they saw me coming. I don’t know if word has gotten out that Stick and the protective testosterone are gone, or if it’s just taken a few weeks for the kids to get up their nerve to see the foreigners, but when I looked up from my book this morning, I saw a collection of children outside the gate, peering in the windows. They ran off as I went to the door, a sure sign that they wanted to see the foreign girl!
I’ve missed the casual chatting with single strangers. Fellow travelers strike up a conversation with a single foreign face, but wouldn’t intrude on a couple. I guess it’s easier to ask me directions when I’m on my own — and I impress myself with my ability to navigate! (Greg from Minnesota, I hope my directions get you to the Forbidden City ok!)
Some of it, through, I never missed. I wasn’t missing the loneliness when something funny happens, and no one shares it with me, or the depressing realization that my amusing and awful moments will only be shared in a secondhand way, some of the hilarity and horror rubbed away with the delay in telling. It never fails to shock me, when I discover something else about my wild adopted homeland, that my eyes have been opened to something new and strangely Chinese, while everyone I love is sleeping now. As I sleep through the weddings and birthdays and every days of my family back home.