“When I go back home, I am really going to miss hot pot,” I say, pulling enoki mushrooms out of my steaming pot of ma la weidao broth. “Well, actually, there aren’t many things I won’t miss. But I’ll especially miss hot pot.”
It’s a Friday, lunch time, and my dining partner, Junsong, and I are talking about what I’ll miss when I go home in just a month and a half. It’s about the time when I realize my days here are numbered, and that on May 12, I’ll be boarding an airplane back to America. I’ve adjusted to my life here in China so well that America seems like a foreign country to me now.
As I reflect on the things I’ll miss (too numerous to count) and won’t miss (pollution, climate, old people spitting on the sidewalks), it sometimes feels like a dream. I suppose there’s a reason many people refer to taking a gap year as “going away from real life for a year”. That’s certainly what it feels like.
So maybe you’re wondering why a post centered around art started with… hot pot. I promise I did not choose hot pot as the work of art that impacted me during my stay here (though, let’s be honest, hot pot is a work of art). I chose a poem that reflects on the dreamlike nature of coincidence and separation — 偶然 by 徐志摩. Here is a link to a video of me reciting it, both the original version in Chinese, and the English translation.
The poem is intended to be a love poem, about two lovers separating and going their own ways. However, for me, it goes beyond just two people. 偶然 means “by chance”, and when I reflect on all the things that have occurred to me in China, many of it seems too coincidental, too beautiful to be true. I feel as if I have been separated from the “real world,” and given a wonderful opportunity to find a little piece of home in China. I will not have an opportunity quite like this again, and I am so grateful for the ability to have it now.
The theme of separation is also prevalent — 你有你的，我有我的方向 — You have your direction, I have mine. When I leave China, I will continue my life in America, continuing to grow and change. While China is not a person, China will continue to grow and change, too. So many things, both political and cultural, have already changed since my arrival in August. When I come back to China, it will be different in so many ways.
I have a silly fear that I’ll come back to a country so different from the one I fell in love with, but I know that I shouldn’t worry, because China will always have hot pot. Of course, I’m being facetious, but in most cases, change is good.
This poem, however, suggests 你记得也好，最好你忘掉 — Remember if you will, better yet if you forget. However, I disagree with this part, in relation to my situation. I will remember this gap year, very fondly, as the single best opportunity I’ve had in my life.