Was that really me? Were we really there?
The thought crossed my mind as I scrolled through the photos of John and me in the US. In one, I crouched before the cream-colored house in the suburbs we once called home. In another, he posed like a triumphant warrior before the rolling hills of Ohio we hiked every evening.
Some two weeks ago, I slept under the roof of that cream-colored house in Ohio and meandered through the trails in those hills. But now that I sleep under the roof of a white-washed home in rural Zhejiang and hike through mountains filled with bamboo and pines, my former life in the US feels like a fantasy — as if someone photoshopped me and John into those photos.
And oddly enough, it’s not the first time I felt this way. Whenever I’ve traveled between China and the US, my life in the country I left behind always seemed more like a long, extended dream to me. Not even artifacts of that previous life — such as those photos — could completely dispel this feeling that it was all just a hallucination.
Maybe that’s what happens when you’re in an international, cross-cultural relationship — where you straddle two different worlds. It’s not just geography that separates China and the US; different cultures and languages only serve to reinforce the separation. Meanwhile, I’m surrounded by people here in China who couldn’t really understand what it was like for John and me to live in the US — while in the US, most people I know don’t understand life in China. Sometimes, I feel as if these two separate worlds of mine will always remain strangers in a sense — where never the two shall meet.
Perhaps that’s also the power of living in foreign countries. Suddenly, you realize that the reality you knew growing up isn’t universal…that reality changes when you cross borders and oceans.
In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new reality in China. And someday, when I return to the US for a visit, perhaps this will all feel like a dream all over again.