The End of an Adventure

Welp, I’m finally back in the States. And what a journey it’s been (both my entire journey in and around China, and the journey back home). Right now I’m sitting on an Amtrak train bound for San Diego, where I will stay with a friend of a friend, who I’ve never even met before.

My last night in China, I first ate dinner with my wonderful cousins who were in town for the week, and after that, I had a gathering at a bar, and all of my good China friends came to say goodbye. We had a great time listening to music, drinking, talking, and sharing stories. I came back home to my apartment, made the rounds to the convenience store and the late night BBQ restaurant, saying goodbye to the friends I’ve made in those places and seen pretty much daily for the last 8 months.

The next day I hurriedly packed my bag (yes, just one duffel bag), and double, triple, and quadruple checked my room to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything important, as it’s my tendency to always forget something, and that something is usually something important.

I had a late afternoon flight, and on Tuesday afternoon, too, which was nice. The plane was barely full, and there were enough empty rows for most people to stretch out and sleep laying down. That marks the first time I’ve ever had a decent sleep on an airplane. I also made friends with a couple of Chinese people also headed for L.A. (the flight from Beijing was bound for Vancouver).

I’ve always heard stories of passengers on an airplane getting stuck on the tarmac for hours without going anywhere, and that finally happened to me. We taxied all the way to the runway and waited in line for about an hour, and by the time it was my flight’s turn to go, the captain came on and said that they had been waiting so long that we needed to turn back and add more fuel. That took another 30 minutes, and during that time, we got hit by a big thunderstorm, so then we waited another hour and a half for that to pass. Finally, we were off!

The delays caused me and the only other 2 people on the flight going to LA to miss our flight on Alaska Airlines, but instead we got to fly Air Canada again, which I was glad about, because Air Canada is better than any American airline that I have ever flown on. Also, they gave us all free food as an apology for the short haul flight… a nice bonus.

So I’ve been in San Diego (Oceanside, to be specific) for about a week now, just relaxing and having fun. I found my place to stay here the morning I flew out of Beijing, through a friend of a friend. I’m staying with a great woman and her two kids. The woman and I hang out and talk about music a lot, and I play video games with her son and daughter. Also, her dad lives next door, so I go visit him and we chat too. Pretty low key, but lots of fun.

I’ve been reflecting on the goals I laid out for myself when I first left for China, so here they are again:

  1. Become immersed in and hopefully understand more about the Chinese culture.

Absolutely! I think I did a really good job of dividing my time between hanging out with Chinese people, and hanging out with foreigners. I definitely understand a LOT more about the way Chinese people think about things, and why they do the things they do. It has changed my perception on their government, and reveals a lot about their history. I guess I understand certain things, but I don’t really “get” them, like all of the silly superstitions that are so prevalent there.

  1. Become fluent in Chinese, both written and spoken.

Fluency? Not so much… but I’ve learned a LOT, and I get complimented on my Chinese often. Not only by Chinese people (who will tell you your Chinese is amazing if you can say anything beyond “hello”), but I’ve also made a lot of foreigners jealous by learning more than them and in a shorter time. Sometimes, if they’ve been drinking, they even get angry. But I love them anyways! We’re all good friends 🙂 My Chinese is at least good enough to have basic conversations and do almost all the functions of day-to-day life, but I have a looong way to go! I intend to keep working on that, though.

  1. Have experiences and make great friends I will remember for the rest of my life.

This one is a resounding YES! Leaving Beijing was a bit emotional for me, as I had spent nearly the last year making all of these great friendships and always doing fun things, and all of a sudden leaving all that behind. I have made some of the greatest friends I have ever known, and we always have lots of fun! I will most likely go back sometime in the not too distant future to visit all of them, and who knows? Maybe even stay for a long time again. I’m definitely not sick of life in the ‘jing!

  1. Become more open minded about the ways other cultures do things, and try to understand why they think they way they do.

I guess this one is hard to objectively answer, but I’d like to think I have. I no longer bat an eye at parents helping their small children drop a deuce on the public sidewalk, or Chinese table manners (elbows on the table is the way to go, you don’t know what you’re missing!), or any of their other innumerable customs that most people, including myself, consider strange. I understand it more, and am way more open minded, but I don’t think I will ever stop thinking that a lot of the things they do are completely strange. But heck, I feel the same way about many things Americans do as well.

This past year has, without a doubt, been the most defining year of my life so far, and has helped shape me as a person. I’ve learned a lot about myself, other cultures, and the world in general. I’ve truly realized my passions for traveling and language learning! I am so glad that I made the decision I did to go to China, and I don’t think I would ever change that. Now, I just have to decide what my next big decision will be. Here’s hoping it’s as great as the decision I made to spend my year in Beijing!

Well, that’s all for this post! Feel free to leave your thoughts and questions in the comments, and I’ll do my best to get back to you! Also, you can easily subscribe to my blog to receive my posts directly in your email inbox as I publish them, by signing up at the bottom of this page (and you will never receive spam– I promise!). Stay tuned for my next adventure, it will be a good one! And it may come sooner than you think!

5 Responses to The End of an Adventure

  1. Aunt Kathy says:

    thanks Jake! See you in a couple of weeks. Keep working on your So Cal tan….ha! Glad you made it back to the states safely. Quite an adventure.

  2. The Websters says:

    Glad to have you back, Jake! I think world travel should be a post HS graduation MUST and your blog should be required reading for all. Can’t wait to see you in person, give you a big hug and hear your Chinese!

    Hooray for you!

    Theresa, Rich, Alex and Ryan

  3. Jon Farnlof says:

    Glad your back, although I will miss your posts…really fun……..Jon Farnlof

  4. Mom says:

    I like how you’ve reflected on the goals you laid out for yourself before leaving for China. And now, I am sitting on the edge of my seat after reading your “next adventure” comment. See you soon . . .

  5. Peg says:

    Welcome home, Jake! See you in a week and can’t wait to hear more about your wonderful adventure. Maybe you can teach me a word or two in Chinese. Peg

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