Even if the calendar did not tell us that this is our one year China anniversary, our five senses would. At home in Canada, I can always tell the changes of the seasons with my nose. For some reason it has come as a surprise to me to that I would also be able to do that in China. Back in the fall, I blogged about how strange it was to be smelling familiar home smells. We've all heard that smells link powerfully to emotion, but this is the first time I have experienced it so strongly. The air recently has smelled exactly the same as it did when we arrived. The market smells the same (and yes it has changed through the seasons). Our house feels the same. The heat will officially be turned off by the government in two weeks time, but until then, the temperature inside the house is uncomfortably warm. To deal with the we open the windows a crack to let in a little cool air. The smell of the smoggy air coming into the overly warm house has on a number of occasions sent me rocketing back in time. Its amazing how without warning a smell can send me rocketing back to really bizarre and random moments. Here are a few moments that have been vividly relived.
1) The other night I folded laundry in our bedroom and the smell of the air brought back a sudden memory of laying on our new, strange, board-like mattress with the horrible dim fluorescent light on, reading ROOTS. Suddenly I was re-experiencing the exact impressions of our new home. Why on earth would I remember such an insignificant event? By the way, we now love how hard the mattress is. I think I'll have a hard time adjusting to anything that is softer. But at the time, it was very hard to adjust to waking up with aching ribs, spines and hips. Just a little warning for anyone planning to visit us. At first it feels like you are sleeping on cement.
2) We went out for supper the other night and ended up eating the same food that we had for our first meal in China (unplanned). As soon as I bit into the food, I remembered sitting in the cold restaurant, telling Ari and Jude not to lick their food off the table, drinking the then unfamiliar tea and trying not to think about sanitation. In a flash I remembered in detail exactly what the mural on the wall looked like that was across from me. Jude broke a glass spoon there.
3) The other day we went for a walk at 4:30 pm (the same time of day we arrived in China). The sky looked the same, the temperature was the same, the air smelled the same. Driving from the airport, I was astonished to see that there are characters painted directly on the road giving names and directions. I distinctly remembered driving up to our apartment building and walking into our apartment the first time. The first thing I saw when I walked in was a Chinese vase.
4) Just like the first week we arrived, Jude had the flu this last week. That lingering smell of puke that is so hard to get rid of reminded me of eating Peking Duck for the first time. Both boys had been vomiting for a few days when we first ate it. Even though it is Beijing's most world renowned famous food, both James and I could not get rid of the sensation the the sauce just tasted like vomit. I haven't tried it since then.
5) I had to buy some water glasses this week because all of ours were broken. I went to IKEA, the same place we bought all our household supplies the day after arriving. For the record that is actually the cheapest deal around here to get any quality. I remembered seeing a set of cups charged at 54 RMB and being unable to wrap my jet-lagged brain around whether that was a good deal or not. Similarly, we considered buying a bed for Jude but I couldn't bring myself to spend 750 RMB (~$115) on it. He still sleeps on a mattress on the floor! Oh well, it works just fine for our purposes!
Of course the passing of an "anniversary" brings on contemplation of the time past. As with most things, it has been both fast and slow. Its hard to believe that its been a year, and it seems just as hard to believe that there are still another two years. Its been good so far!
James is currently off at an agricultural conference near Shanghai. He was specifically invited to attend by its main planners. Two days ago, to our surprise we received an itinerary. There on Monday morning, March 1, from 9:00-9:30, we saw that "Dr. Jim Frey" would be giving a half hour presentation. A few assumptions made perhaps? I know that I laughed for a good five minutes at the thought that without my consent, I was officially married to "Dr. Jim Frey" (whom I imagine to be sixty years old and red faced with bad hair). James was a little more concerned that he was suddenly giving a half hour presentation. But all is well that ends well, and tomorrow morning, the good people at this conference will hear Dr. Jim Frey's presentation.
Ari goes back to school tomorrow...he and I are equally happy!