Suitcases and PillowcasesBeijing, Spring 2011

Never go on a trip without making your bed. This is one of the few pieces of my parents’ advice that became ingrained in my habits almost immediately after it was given – no frustrating repetitions required. Any other day, my room has what I fancy to be a “lived-in look.” In other words, clothes lie dejectedly where I cast them off; my bedspread remains hopelessly askew, and any space on my dresser is filled with little odds and ends that I may or may not need later. But when it comes to leaving home for an extended period, my brother and I have been trained in the art of the immaculate. Disney World, Mississippi, New York, Grandma’s house, science camp, ranch camp – before embarking on any journey, I leave my room, for once, looking like an ad in a magazine. So when, amidst the early morning chaos of my Beijing departure day (Did you find your glasses case? Did you try on your boot warmers? Is the suitcase under 70 lbs.? Do you know how long it takes to ship a package from Ohio to Beijing?), I find it absolutely rational to be in my room silently tucking my sheets and arranging my pillows with the speed and dexterity of a conditioned Marine soldier. Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself that there is something to be said for a well-made bed. This morning I woke up at 4:27 (twenty-seven minutes after my alarm setting), and I took great delight in the soft flannel sheets that embraced me in my sleep. Perhaps, it was the two hours of rest that I had stored up, but I could have sworn that my bed wanted to keep me from getting on that plane. A recurring thought crept into my head – “You can still put a stop to this. You should just stay here anyway…It’s so much easier.” It was this thought – not the fact that I was almost a half-hour behind schedule – that made me spring out of bed because I knew this was no premonition, but a resurgence of the cold feet syndrome I had the day before. It seems odd that I could look forward to something since high school, but, when January 14 becomes tomorrow morning, I get a feeling akin to stage fright: nausea, butterflies, anxiety, all that jazz. Suddenly, “Oh, yeah! I’m goin to China!” becomes “Holy ####, I’m going to CHINA!” and I demand of myself what in God’s name was I thinking? Suddenly, I’m considering how I just seemed to be getting the whole college thing down, how I left behind so much unfinished business, and how the new friendships I have come to value might not be waiting for me when I come home. But at 4:27 in the AM, I decide to jump out of those comfortable sheets and make my bed the way I was taught. Of course, I can’t have the thought of unfluffed pillows, untucked corners, and unsmoothed blankets distract me while I’m on the other side of the globe. Better to give things a little finality, I figure. Now, I’m sitting here at Gate 123, and the only thing I can think of is how awesome the Great Wall is going to look with a light blanket of snow to cover it. And even when I chance to think of all the all the obligations on the home soil I have to manage and how exactly I’m going to manage them with a 12-hour time difference, I still take comfort, and even a little pride, in the fact that my homecoming ceremony will include straightened fluffed pillows, nicely pressed sheets, and a stuffed tiger who eagerly awaits my stories from afar.
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1 Comment

  1. I also want to travel abroad to China! This is a recent ambition of mine, so i still havent taken one class of Manderin. Finding a class in this particular language is extremly scarce where I live so I have to wait until this Fall to start. I was wondering how the process of learning Chinese in school has been going for you? If you have any advise for a beginner? Good luck in your adventure!

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