February 16, 2011
The first step back inside the apartment felt somehow unsettling. The room seemed a little darker than I remembered, the walls a little more bare. The air was stuffy. I walked through the door at three p.m. yesterday, dropped my bags, and began to clean. The floor and the sheets were first priority. The window ledge in the bedroom was caked with dust. I worked away at the cleaning for a few hours -- washed the curtains and the sheets, wiped down the shower and mopped the floor.
The construction next door has progressed -- this morning I woke up to the sound of hammers, saws, and voices. Workers talked just beneath my window. I hate to say it, but now is when the pangs of homesickness creep in. At the time I said goodbye to my family I felt nothing. I was thinking about the security line: about taking out my laptop and taking off my shoes and triple-checking my passport and my tickets. After that, I was checking screens for my gate number in L.A., or standing at a Beijing carousel looking for a green army duffel and a torn black suitcase. Then I was looking for a socket to charge my cell phone... an ATM... a taxi. Now, suddenly, I'm in an empty apartment wiping dust off a window ledge; the skies outside are gray, and the landscape is dead with winter.
A teacher at breakfast asked if I was happy to be back. "It's not that I dislike it here," I said, "but it's hard to leave home." I'll feel fine in a week or two.