Here in China, my US life feels like a dream

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.

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23 Replies to “Here in China, my US life feels like a dream”

  1. Totally understandble, to be pefectly honest with you Jocenlyn, Neither places I was turely enjoying to stay, what I meant was China and North America (Canada and Sates). sometimes it felt alike “Not belonging” and “misplaced” you were in realitys in both worlds, where are different possibly can never collide ; just yesterday, there was show in Tianjin TV “泊客中国” — The drifter in China, shows many of foreigners settled down in this country who devoted their most of life time in China, and never want to return, but they are contributing for China’s devleoping, not all people are scientists or engineers, instead, many of them are ordinary people who lived in rural areas crossed over the China, helping poverties; this one candian lady who is in her 50s, and she lived in China for 25 years, and had not returned back Canada; she said that she felts like China is her mother and if she dies, she would die in here….. I meant I couldn’t even be that dedicated like her, even I am a Chinese. so here goes if the feelings of dreams somedays made you have very complicated moments, would you still consider to move back? would it be more like a circle wouldn’t it? or anyother ideas to dealing with this feelings? China is not pefect places compare with most of west words; i honestly wish my country can turely catch up for the quality of life and turely wish our people can open their mindset, chang many behaviors/habits that was not appropriate for others.

    1. Very well said Yang. I took it that you have been in the US or Canada for a while, like myself who spent equal time in both places. I think I gave up, for sometime now, the idea to feel at “home” in either China or the US. The reality is I will probably never feel that as it is defined by the convention. The positive side for this is that I feel I am more connected to my “humanness” than any particular nationality — I don’t feel insulted personally as I used to if
      someone attacks China, or the US. Most of my Chinese friends would react angrily if some “outsider” criticizes China evenif what he/she said is true. Now I am more associated with people I enjoy to be with, regardless their origin. Probably I shall call myself 国际流浪汉, but who says we need a nationality to define who we are? I live in Seattle now, and I try to be a seattlite as much as I can 🙂

  2. For me it feels like life in Finland was something that happened long long time ago, even though it’s only been four years. I really liked those years of high school and university, but my life have changed completely since I moved to China.

    I think it will feel more surreal when I visit Finland and those familiar places in January.

  3. Interesting how you describe your situation. Straddling two completely different worlds, so to speak, like a dream. Maybe we all are the butterfly and the dream at the same time, because reality is now, yet illusive. It is fleeting, yet like forever, for the moment that is. That is one reason why I always love dreams. You are in this reality and next in another, without reason or rhyme. And all is real. Perhaps life itself is a dream in motion. Or motion in a dream? Whether in dream or in motion, enjoy!

  4. I’m familiar with a feeling of being an outcast no matter where I am, even if I should be in Russia its because of me being Jewish, or among Jews because neither I nor my family are religious Jews and many customs are foreign to us, or in America because of my name and my religion as well as my hobbies and interests. I guess I find it humorous in a way that I can’t fit in anywhere for one reason or another. I am supposed to be familiar with three worlds, yet I rejected all of them I think.

  5. I couldn’t relate more to that feeling. I have been going back and forth between China, Germany and the UK. And everytime the life I had in the country left behind feels like a dream.

    The only difference is, everytime I go back to China it feels like home (might be because my loved one and my little puppy are always waiting for me), but it is just not the same with Germany. Even though my mom lives there, I always feel like stranger in a strange country. I know the language, I know the customs and culture, but I feel like an outcast. China is strange in so many ways, but it still feels like home. I can’t explain it.

  6. Thank you Gang chen; I think only for people once were in that situation could greatly sense this type of feelings— dreams, ” seemingly to be in a dream, however it lasts in the past, strange but familiar; for me , how I face the reality now is that I have to readjust where I came from, and no one understand my life in past, and no one whom I can share with. and all the lifes follow behind in the past, become forever dreams, or memories; after I broke up with my american ex gf ; once I knew she was having multi – affrairs with many guys, then I realized that something in my life were just so wrong ; not beacuse I am deserving what occured , but its a life lesson which is that I can’t put all my hopes with particular thing or person to expect them to change my ownself anymore; beacuse life is with too much uncertainties, time will shape all oaths away; expecially that when you were so confident with someone or something, then after years, you just realized that people changed, life changes…… they are seeminly not them anymore.. this will go with this blog’s name “here, and there feels like a dream” idk if yall read the blog that Jocelyn put up couple weeks ago, or might be a month ago, it was something about making the decision of moving back to China; since there was something unpleasent going on, by that, people would say Hi, Jocelyn, welcome back to China, you will have a good and enjoyable life” but hi, was it about places where we stayed ? maybe somewhat; the facts are more relying exclusively on ourselves, are we happy for our currenly life, if not, what we do, just moving out? I think the turth is learning to face the chanlleges and deal with them. correct me if my words are harsh. I remembered once I lived in Canada as student, I had this 88 years old respectful, lonely, grandpa aged, tough real Canadian guy: Earl, he was tough also nice in many ways; he was accepting enough and would let a prostitute lady come to visit his house, and sever her hot coffee, made her feels there like home, and something postive about life, but all dark sides ; mean time; he never slept with her, mean time, he could kick some punk ass jerkers who were trying to harass the neibourhood, just he was so lonely , made me naturally have a fear, beacuse I don’t want to end up living like him when I was that old. this one time he told me, times fly, you never know what will happen tommorrow, I maybe dying……”
    That was sad, from his narration, I understood the situation he had been tough when there was no one around, he was so sick, barely even got up the bed…. he kept looking up the ceiling all sudden, those memories from his past childhood, his mother and father, sisters, his ex-wife……” he was cring beacuse no one knew he was sick on that day, and he belived he was going to die.” after 4 days and nights, he woke up himself, still empty house and no one was around, he was alive. then he thought about live and death, he told himself, cherish every day you have now, and being the toughest one you would ever be, believe yourselve, beacuse you are only person to Change the life! after I heard his story on December 27th of 2008 I brought him a cup cake as his 88th brithday, that comes from me, first person to buy his Brithday gift in past decade, i knew he has 3 grand daughters, and 2 grand sons, 2 daughters and 1 son, however his children haven’t come to visit him in past 20 years, so did his ex-wife, besdes there was only one photo on his wall, showing that was supposed to be a happy family……

  7. Oh, yes! I couldn’t agree more, very specially with the “suddenly, you realize that the reality you knew growing up isn’t universal…that reality changes when you cross borders and oceans”. People should travel more and experience life in other countries -specially in very different cultures- with an open mind.

    Good, good luck to you. I owe you an email… We’ll return to China in a week, I can’t wait! And at the same time, I’m sad there will be no Christmas nor turrón in my life this winter.

  8. Just be happy with your spouse and that’s what count the most. No matter how big the wave, we will endure it . I love to live in the country side seriously.

  9. We shouldn’t be soooooo damn negative man!! We can be anywhere in this world man. The world is changing and we should not isolate ourselves. People make bad comments because they know nothing about you. It’s call ignorance !!! Lorde picks James to be her bf because he is a wonderful person. Look at those American rock stars. They look F….up and still have beautiful women.

  10. I think anything has both sides, goodsides and darksides, so once we are mad about social public voices are so judgemental about corss-culture relationship, meanwhile i do think the singer put up their picture for purposes, she knew she would get alot of Bullcraps on this, but She still was kind of evily do it. I think it was kind of fun for her.

  11. The New Asian Exclusion Act of 2013…courtesy of David “Dunderhead” Cameron’s United Kingdom…..

    “An unnamed source said her fiancee, who has a PhD and works as a researcher at a university in Japan, would not be a burden on British taxpayers, but the rules on income make it impossible for her to act as his sponsor.

    “I would love to go back to the UK”, she said. “My brothers and sisters are having children and I am missing [out on] them growing up. But to [return to the UK] I have to have a job earning over £18,000.” “

  12. Dre:

    Sorry, mea culpa…I am wrong…sounds more like South African apartheid….

    “The regulations mean that couples have been forced to live apart, while children — including those with British passports — have been separated from parents.”

    “However, they did not want black men’s families to live in the same area.”

    Another major difference is that the Asian men some with Phds married to white women who are targeted. During the Chinese Exclusion it was the Asian women who were kept out of the country.

  13. “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.”

    I relate to this phrase a lot. I think living in another culture could have a great impact on one’s perception of this world, which is a good thing in my opinion. The biggest benefit might be genuinely understanding, not just verbally or intellectually, that our ideas about this world are really conditioned by our surroundings. Once realizing that, we are more likely to be tolerant and open to new things. We are more likely to be compassionate and have empathy towards other people.

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