I often credit my mother for my wandering spirit, my longing to travel, see the world, learn of new places and experience new things. She moved a lot growing up and she first introduced me to the foreign world and to traveling. When I was in second and third grade my mom was getting her master’s degree in teaching English as a second language. With my sister and I, she discussed where we could go as a family for her to teach. We spoke of the great unknowns places as far apart and distinct as China and Cyprus. We finally landed in Hungary where we spent a year as a family shortly after the fall of the iron curtain. An experience unlike any other for a nine year old American school girl and only the beginning of my world travels.
I saw Europe with my family at a young age. I remember meeting my mother’s penpal from (former) East Germany – who she met for the first after over 20 years of snail mail correspondence. I tasted the culture again as an exchange student and tourist between high school and college. My mom always supported me along the way. I remember sitting outside Starbucks with her back in 1997 discussing how I wanted to go to Europe as an exchange student. I remember waiting in the San Fransisco airport for 9 hours after over 30 hours of traveling having not seen my family or friends for an entire year. I called my mother as she was drinking margaritas in Arizona on vacation and told her I was moving from Oregon to Florida on a whim.
I grew up looking up to my mom’s students from all over the world, how they traveled to a foreign land from Asia, the Middle East, South America and Europe to study and learn English in a new culture; yet, provided for us a taste of their own culture.
I remember sitting planning a girls trip with my mom and sister, discussing where to go, where to explore. I remember zip-lines, rainforests, beaches and white water rafting with my mom and sister through Costa Rico.
I remember the questions, the mothering, the worrying that came when I said I wanted to move to China. But all along, my mom supported me. I remember her telling me she would come visit me in China, that her and her husband, Matt, were planning on it. I remember the overwhelmed look of surprise and excitement that came over her face when my sister and I agreed to help fund her trip to China for Christmas this past year.
I went and visited one of my mom’s classes when I was home in July and met some of her Chinese students – now all significantly younger than me – who all knew because of my mom’s stories that I am her daughter living in China.
My mom supported me along the way and I’m always happy to see her. When she came to visit me in Corvallis, Oregon for mom’s weekend at OSU, when she would come and see my house in Portland, when I flew home after months or a year of being away, when we took separate flights and met in an airport miles from home to take a trip together, when we explored new countries together, I was always happy to see my mom. However, never in my life have I been as excited to see my mom as today.
I’ve been talking about it for weeks, months in fact. I’ve been counting down the days. I couldn’t sleep last night. I told my students about it today. I jumped for joy and spun in circles cheering with excitement in the middle of my office! I honestly could not contain myself. Because today, I showed my mom the world. My mom had been to Corvallis, to Portland, to Beaverton, my mom knows what to expect in the US or in Europe, my mom has traveled and seen the world and our eyes have seen things together for the first time. But today, my mom came to my world.
My mom and Matt have never been to China, though both have wanted to over the years. My mom told me the other day, “In thinking about all the places in the world I want to go and where I might actually realistically go sometime in my life, China was never on the list.” China was always a dream, but never a reality – because of me, China is a reality.
My mom gets to see where I have been living for the past (almost) 8 months. She gets to walk the streets I walk every day, eat the food I eat, see the faces I see. She can experience the packed subways, the traffic, the dirty streets, the view from my bedroom, the smells of Shanghai. She gets to step inside the photographs, the stories, the blogs and take part in my life – a life so different than anything or any place she has known. She gets to feel, to experience what I feel and experience every day. What a million words, stories or a thousand pictures could never convey.
My mom is here. Her and Matt arrived by plane at 2:35pm, I was still at work when they called at 3:05pm to say they made it through security and customs and were off the find the Maglev (the high speed train) to the city. They had detailed instructions on how to take the train and the subway to get to my subway stations, where I was waiting, hardly containing myself, to greet them – and welcome them to my world.
Welcome home, Mom! This is my life – this is Shanghai, China.