Arkansas?


At one point in China someone told me that before we met she had read a bit of my blog. That was sort of unsettling. A year ago I also started a relationship that had to remain a secret from certain friends and coworkers. And to spout ‘inconvenient’ opinions too publicly in China is asking for trouble.

So for eighteen months I’ve been sort of averse to putting any opinions down in public form at all. More and more of my Facebook went private, I posted a little less, and I basically didn’t use my blog at all. Funny how that sticks to you even two months after leaving China behind.

What am I doing? I’m living in Arkansas. And I’ve had enough friends and family express disbelief or confusion over it that I thought I should explain that a little.

My girlfriend, Dina, was accepted in a MBA program at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. She and I left China toward the end of August and made our way to Memphis, TN, then finally to Jonesboro.

After almost two weeks living in a hotel next-door to a small contingent of migrant workers we moved into an apartment near the college. That’s a fun story in and of itself: first the background check they ran on me came back saying that I had committed fraud in the state of Florida under an assumed name. Then once we sorted that away they wouldn’t accept any of the cosigns I could arrange, so we had to pay a year’s rent upfront.

Things have been relatively quiet since then, although we’ve gone on two road trips to see friends in Nashville, a wedding up in Saint Louis. In between all that I’ve been a bit of a house-husband, running errands and cooking meals, waiting for the next piece to fall into place.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

I was working pretty hard trying to find work in the US before I left China, but never got anything nailed down 100%. Given the fragility of our situation as two non-citizens of the US, I’ve been pretty diligent about not job-seeking while I’ve been here, because that’s grounds for expulsion. That said, some of the conversations I started during my last days in China have, and I’m hoping something might finally come of that in the coming weeks.

Dina’s enjoying school and making a few friends, though the adjustment to another country has been hard. This is Dina’s first time outside of China, and it’s been a whirlwind of expectations hastily renegotiated from fantasy. Who daydreams about moving to small-town Arkansas, after all? Dina grew up watching Friends, not Duck Commander.

It’s been hard for both of us, in truth. I’ve gone through all the culture shock before which means I’ve tried to be patient with the whole process. Some days I even succeed in being more of a calming force than an agitating one. But every week seems better than the previous, even if it’s only a marginal improvement. There’s a victory there.

I’ve been trying to keep busy with a few projects. On the socially-unacceptable-for-a-grown-man side, I’ve been working on two separate lego designs–one of which might be an unexpected Christmas gift for someone. I took way too long to write an article for a friend’s blog about state surveillance in China, and I’m almost finished a short travel article about Bonne Terre Mines which Dina and I visited on the way back from Saint Louis. There are also a few essays in varying states of completion which I’m hoping I can finish, then get someone to publish before too long. I’ve even been picking away at–can you believe it?–a sonnet. And then there’s a bit of xbox here and there, playing online with distant friends.

I’m not saying it isn’t fun. But I’m also not saying it isn’t stressful.

The sermon in church this past Sunday was all about patience and God’s timing. The funny thing is that while I don’t really believe in providence, I’ve always been content to let things work themselves out in the past. It’s very different when someone else’s success is almost completely dependent on mine, though. I check my email a lot more often these days. Almost as often as I check the bank balance.

I guess that’s just adulthood, and responsibility.

Shit, does it suck.

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