I had been packing my bags slowly for about a week, and each time I left the apartment I took a bag of trash or things to give away. Down eight flights, up eight flights, over and over again. I’d written goodbye cards to people, attended (so, so, so) many goodbye dinners, and had drinks/coffee at all of my favorite Kunming spots. I’d taken pictures of my favorite “China moments” and bought all of the things that I promised myself I would buy before I left. I’d turned in my final Excel spreadsheets filled with grades, and received my final paycheck. Most of my friends were already on summer holiday. I was ready to leave.
But was Kunming ready to let me leave? As I settled into bed for my last night, a huge thunderstorm began with a constant stream of heavy rain and lightning. It was the rainy season, but this amount of rain reminded me more of a monsoon in the Philippines, not drought-ridden Yunnan. Sure enough, I woke up the next morning to reports and pictures on Facebook and the news showing extreme flooding around the city. I wasn’t sure if I would be leaving as scheduled, or if Kunming was trying to keep me for an extra day. Friends joked the the city was crying about my imminent departure. Ha ha ha.
I gave myself plenty of time to get to the airport bus station with my two large (and very heavy) suitcases, carry on back pack stuffed beyond capacity, purse and bird cage (don’t ask). Usually on the bus they let you store your luggage in the underbelly, but due to flooding they said we had to carry our suitcases up with us into the seats. Ugh, but probably for the best. As I sat down in my seat with all of my stuff piled up next to me, I let out a sigh of relief and watched the city lights pass by. Tears began to fall and I sniffled to myself. It was finally real. I was leaving the place that I’ve called home for the past two years. Leaving some amazing friends, leaving a fulfilling job, and leaving a country that has taught me so much about myself. And where was I going? Into uncertainty.
My mom picked me up at JFK and everything felt oddly normal. I came back to a bedroom (my bedroom?) that was different yet again. New paint, new bedspreads, and new junk (from my brothers) in the closet. The dresser was filled with clothes that I haven’t worn in two years. I almost rolled off the tiny twin bed because I was used to sleeping on my King-sized bed in Kunming. I missed Bibbi Snurr, my charismatic duvet cover that I’d bought my first month in Dalian and had been on my bed ever since. The pillows didn’t feel quite right, and smelled like a different laundry detergent. I guess this is the new normal.
As I fell asleep last night, it was raining in Pocono Pines, PA and I thought back to Kunming. I looked out the window near my bed, in a similar position to the window in my old bedroom, and tried to remember the view that I had seen so many times; the tops of the buildings and mountains in the distance. Why hadn’t I taken a picture of that?