So, I have to say. After the past couple of months, I’ve been going through some weird ups and downs emotionally, preparing to meet the inevitable day when I have to say good-bye to my home of 2 years, this country, and my adopted family. There’s no real way to deal with good-byes, and anyone who knows me, probably knows that I’m the worst at them.
Luckily, I’ve been getting over what silly thoughts and negative feelings I had and have started the process of acceptance. Accepting my leaving, my upcoming circumstances, and ending my service in the Peace Corps. Saturday, I spent lunch with my women’s group, and intended to spend the rest of the sunny day finding new glasses, getting a new backpack, some stuff for the resource room, and picking up souvenirs. I took a bus downtown and after finding the perfect new pair of specs, took a stroll down the main street purchasing little reminders of China for friends and family. I had my brown purse that has two zippers, and inside, my camera, my wallet that my students had just given me—which inside held the remainder of all my money in China (since I had a lot to buy and only 2 weeks left), about 1000 RMB. Not much to any average person (160 USD), but to me, it was pretty much all the money I have until whatever part of the measly Peace Corps readjustment allowance I get after paying off credit card bills from flights and loans that comes my way on my way out of China.
Luckily, as I was browsing, I found some awesome Mao Zedong pendants to give to a couple friends and after I had settled on a price, I reached into my bag to pay the woman and realized my wallet was missing. With all my keys and ALL MY MONEY, except the 3 RMB (50 cents) I had in my hand. I panicked and my eyes went wide. I dug wildly through my purse hoping it was a mistake. I told the woman what had happened and she stared at me blankly and asked for her merchandise back. It took me a second to register that I had already put it in my bag assuming I would be able to pay for it. I ran up the street, hoping I had dropped it. I felt so safe in China for 2 years. I had lost my iPod, but assumed no one had stolen it, really. That maybe I had just lost it and someone would eventually return it to me. That never happened. Now this. My guard was down. Two things I realized—One, I was comfortable in China. So comfortable that I assumed I was safe and had let my guard down again.
And two, I was being stupid. I know better. I know better than to ever let my guard down, ever. No matter where I am, or what it pertains to, I need to respect the idea that not everyone has good intentions.
I had been blown away by the kindness of strangers for 2 years, that I had forgotten what it’s like to truly feel helpless. In that situation, I did what I could. Nothing. I took a bus. I cried. I called Amanda. Then I called Peace Corps safety and security. I spent the afternoon with the police and my school administration. Later that day I met the kids I tutor and got locked out of my house. And had 3 other locks put on by the security guards at my school. Patiently, while my “Chinese mom” waited with me and told me that everything was going to be okay and that Chinese people aren’t all perfect.
I refused to let this incident soil my 2 years of experience working with some of the most hospitable people I’d ever met. So, I didn’t.
Instead, I played volleyball. For 3 hours with my students. I went and got coffee and cookies for the guards that had helped me. I took money out with my credit card (which will bite me in the ass later, but that’s later :-D). Upon returning to my house, my lock was broken again. The security guards helped me. Again. My students came and sat with me. They told me how sorry they were. Then they tried to leave money in my house they had collected between the 5 of them. 1000 RMB. I almost killed them. I shooed them out of my house. I had to continue to chase them down and return their money. They were persistent, but I’m stubborn. I won. Their kindness was all I needed. That, and my mommy.
Life isn’t always easy. Living somewhere else is hard and sad and horrible at times. Crime is everywhere and the world isn’t always just and perfect. After 2 years, it doesn’t get better when these kinds of things happen. But, in this time, one thing has changed—my reaction to these events. My relationships that I have built have given me a reprieve from daily hostilities, and comfort that I will miss. Living in China has given me a sense of calm and patience that I’ve never had before.
Today I decided even though yesterday was horrible, I wanted to go through with my plans to climb the local mountain for the last time. I woke up at 6 and met some former students and members of English corner and we spent the day hiking and chatting and bargaining for Mao Zedong posters. It was lovely and I’ll continue to think fondly of China and the people here, and enjoy my last 18 days. 18 days. Wow.