Back Home

On a personal note, one thing I’ve noticed since traveling abroad is that home base centers on Eastern Standard Time. My soccer games and TV programs back home are calibrated to it. Premier League games are converted first back to Eastern, and then into local time. I try and follow everything going on back home, and because of this, and because China and the East coast are virtually on opposite sides of the world, I end up tracking two days, everyday. Two suns up. Two suns down. Two news cycles. Two sports cycles. Two flurries of activity on social media. Two rounds of texting various friends. Two of everything. Sometimes it’s daunting and sometimes it’s rewarding. But somehow, I feel always connected to two groups of people and the world at large.

Since coming home for Christmas though, I feel as if that sentiment has been largely mitigated and I’ve reverted to caring solely about the East Coast. (Sorry China.) I’ve looked at WeChat infinitely less, and so don’t really follow my co-workers as much. I’m off Chinese social media, probably indicative of the fact that Springfield, Mass will always be home for me – for better or for worse. But now that I’ve reduced my daily time zone intake from two to one, it is now time to see just some of the noticeable differences between a bachelor life in China and my family life in the US.

The first thing I’ve noticed coming back from abroad to Boston’s lovely Logan Airport is the welcoming behavior of the TSA and Boston Police. Such a warm presence. Upon entering, there were already the cold gestures and silent treatments to guide you toward customs, to which no more than zero smiling faces greeted you. To one traveler clearly waiting for his girlfriend to get her passport stamped: “Everyone’s gotta move!! That means YOU mister!” said an officer pointing to a man with nobody within a 20 yard radius. Startled at this random act of kindness, he scurried on down to baggage claim. Granted security certainly has a tough job nowadays, (as always) it certainly doesn’t welcome 300 weary passengers to Beantown.

An obvious and well-worn observation: portions in the US are near endless, and it’s impossible to maintain weight if I ate like I wanted. In China I just eat as I wish, but since the portions are reasonable and generally less meaty, eating like you want over there results in a few less lbs. The beer in the US is just miles better too. In general, the beers there are remarkably light lagers for those brutal hot summer days, or there’s a smattering of German imports, of which I’ve never actually seen here stateside. But the selection is generally of two varieties: “do I want to get drunk?” or “do I just want tea instead?” A beer with your meal is not well designed to complement the flavors inherent to the food, but instead is used simply to shoot something down the gullet. In fact, I’ve found that some of the best food for the light beer is the lamb barbecue you can get from hilal shops, but the store owners aren’t particularly keen on your drinking alcohol near them. (So I don’t…anymore.)

My last observation is primarily concerned with diners. There’s nothing like a good diner. People who say there’s no such thing as American cuisine is sorely mistaken. American food can have tons of personality, the likes of which you cannot find elsewhere. Certainly it’s there in New Orleans/Cajun food. It’s there in Southern food. It’s there in the myriad of fusion dishes in southern California. But there’s something about a simple American diner that gets the juices flowing. Burger. Fries. Soda. That’s sometimes all you need in life, and in China, they have not managed to figure it out. (Well, some have. You just gotta pay up.) The beef simply isn’t flavored appropriately for a cheeseburger, and for that alone I am relishing this trip back home. Merry Christmas to all! (Or Happy Holidays. I forget what we’re supposed to say nowadays…)

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