Sunday, February 5, 2017

I can't watch the Superbowl this year (a post about what I gave up when I came to China)

There are international bars in Shanghai, hosting Superbowl parties that start at 7:30 am. But I have work. Image source.
Apparently the Falcons are playing the Patriots tomorrow. Except, if you're in the US reading this, then I should say "today." But in China I'm publishing this Sunday night and they're playing Monday morning.

And I can't watch it this year. For the past 3 Superbowls, I've been in China, and I've watched them all, live. 2 were during Chinese New Year, so I had off work that day anyway, and 1 was when I was working evenings and weekends as an English teacher, so I never worked on Monday morning.

But this year, I have to leave my apartment at 7:45 Monday morning and go to work. That's 6:45 Sunday night in the US (eastern time). I can't watch it live, and I don't plan to watch it Monday night. It's gonna be 4 or 5 hours long, I don't really have time for that on a Monday night. Plus will I be able to find a website to watch it without accidentally seeing the final score before I even start?

Plus I don't have other football fans here to watch it with.

So I guess I'll just watch the highlights when I get home on Monday night.

I gave up my whole American lifestyle when I came to China. But for some reason, losing the Superbowl is the saddest part.

5 years ago, I went to a Superbowl party, and I came home and thought, "Next year I'll be in China, and I won't be able to watch it. And even though going to China is my dream and it's what I really want, it's still a real loss to have to give up things like that. And it's okay to grieve over that." (As it turns out, I was not in China a year after that, because God is not the kind of God you can trust to not let your internal organs derail all of your life plans.)

I've been here 3 and a half years. That means I've missed 3 Thanksgivings. Yeah I make my own Thanksgiving, but it's not the same. And I forgot about the existence of Labor Day, until I saw people on Twitter talking about "it's Labor Day weekend." And I forgot about the existence of Columbus Day, until, again, Twitter. And I forgot about the existence of Groundhog Day, until I saw it trending on Twitter on the night of February 2- that's morning of February 2 in the US.

And after 3 and a half years, I'm starting to miss the US. I miss bagels. I miss good milk. You can get milk that's good enough in China, but it's not the same. And it's so hard to find decent sandwich bread here. I miss chocolate birthday cakes with buttercream frosting. Yeah, I buy myself a fancy piece of cake when it's my birthday in China, but I eat it alone- Hendrix doesn't want any because it's "too sweet." And if you're at a restaurant that has a special "treat" for free for your birthday, it turns out it's a bowl of noodles.

And you all in the US just lived through that election. I didn't; I only lived it when I was on Twitter, and I could avoid it if I wanted. I've had a very, very different experience than you all have had. (And yes, I voted.) Chinese people laugh at the orange antichrist- his Chinese name is 川普 [chuān pǔ] because we don't have the "tr" sound here- because he's a joke, obviously... but it's not the same as the way I laugh at him with Americans on Twitter. They're not scared like I am. It's not their country. The Saturday after the election, I saw one of my American friends, and we were sad together, and that was the first time I'd met another American since it happened.

And I wish I could see my family more than twice a year. I wish that when I heard about some fun event, or conference, or friend's wedding, or protest, I didn't have to say "well that's not during the week I'm planning to be on that continent, so there's just no way I can go."

I chose to come to China. And it's been good, but it's been hard. The last time I had to renew my residence permit, and I was stuck in a sea of bureacracy with no clearly-defined rules and I worried I was going to get kicked out of China, I told Hendrix, "I didn't know it was going to be this hard. If I had known, maybe I wouldn't have come." But I'm not interested in wondering whether I made "the right decision"- those kinds of conversations assume that living in the US is the default for me and I'm only allowed to get off that path ("God's plan") if I have a really really good reason. I like that China has become "normal" for me and it's coming back that would be a big change, a big serious decision- rather than staying.

Back then, I was very much influenced by the ideology of radical Christian missions, which said the most amazing godly people were the ones who gave up everything and moved to some mysterious place with a totally different language and culture. And even though I didn't end up coming to China as a missionary, and I didn't end up doing it for God- I did it because I wanted to- there was this idea that "giving up your life" was such a good and heroic thing, and such a simple thing. I knew I wouldn't have skim milk like at home, but did I really know it? People talked about how it was hard to give up stuff for God, but back then I didn't know what it was like to hunger for a regular donut after not seeing one for 6 months. Or to be like "I wanna go to Panera" when the nearest Panera is 7000 miles away.

They said "give til it hurts" and it sounded good in theory, like I'm on an adventure for God, but tomorrow I won't be watching the Superbowl, and that hurts.

I said to Hendrix, "I'm going to have to teach you how to watch football." He said, "You did," because I explained the rules to him during previous Superbowls. And I said, no no, I don't mean the rules, I mean about what you're supposed to say when you're watching the game. You have to say "GO GO GO" and "Oh come on, that was NOT a fumble" and "Challenge that! Where's the red flag? YES he threw the red flag" and "GET HIM! GET HIM! NO NO NO NONO GET HIM!" and "Are we in field goal range?" and "Come on we really need some defense here, how about a blitz."

Hendrix is like, "I like to be quiet when I'm watching TV." Okay then. Someday I'll teach him better.

After 3 and a half years, I'm starting to miss the US. For some reason I miss the Superbowl most of all.

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