|Ahhhhhh, coming home. Or is that AAAAAAhhhhh!!!???
Being in a place where things follow a logical system, can be arranged spontaneously by a painless call, and proceed as expected has not characterized my 'culture-shock' of being back. In fact I'm not back yet, but in this in-between place—my parents' home in Taiwan—anticipating our return back to San Francisco. And the biggest personal learning I've done yet on our trip around the world, ironically, has been in coming back home.
I resisted my strongest urges to get on a plane headed for my parents' or San Francisco when we were in India. After being ill for a week and tired of dealing with the things I typically take for granted, I was ready to call Mom and Dad and "be convinced" to come home. Once we got to China, that feeling went away as I suddenly realized we were in the last country of our trip. My head was in traveling, but I looked forward to stepping off the plane in the Taipei airport, smelling the thick muggy sub-tropical air familiar to me from when I lived there. I imagined Mom or Dad, or perhaps both together with my sister greeting us at the airport. We would go out for a novel dinner, or eat Mom's home-cooked meals. We would hang-out late at night talking in the spirit of reunion.
Indeed, Mom changed her plans that day to come meet us, as we were only able to get our ticket last-minute in Hong Kong. Then we went out for steak dinner at the Taipei World Trade Center, dining with a stunning view of the city, making toasts over smooth red wine. The next evening we went out to see Yo-Yo Ma in concert; "presidential box" seats gratis, for which we had to find clothes to get dressed up the same day. We stayed up the next few nights, talking, not necessarily about our travels, but just getting caught up (at the expense of sleeping). It was sort of the homecoming I imagined.
A week into our stay and I begin to feel the stresses and pressures of everyday life my family has been living. All of us were suddenly under one roof, our personalities and issues becoming enmeshed, clearly good intentions thwarted by stubborn habits. I returned home and in becoming re-involved, offered my views on issues that came off as being disrespectful, inconsiderate. In short, I over-stepped the delicate boundaries that shape any family. Highly charged, deeply emotional, an assault on my sense of self as a sensitive and sensible person. After a year of being physically and mostly emotionally free of the complex ties that define families and challenge us individually, I found myself grappling with my own standards, guilt, actions and non-actions, groping for what is appropriate behavior. My intuitions were wrong, my sentiments inarticulated; I began to contribute to the very friction that I wanted to dilute. Even hard travel wasn't this hard!
And there was my lesson.