It is really nice being in the United States. I cannot say I love studying Chinese (there are good days and not so good days), but I do enjoy being in Northern Virginia. Autumn is such a lovely time here. I missed autumn in Mexico. Contrary to what many people thought, it did get cold in Juarez, but there is no changing of the leaves, then crispness in the air and cool, drizzly days. It was really, really hot and then it was not quite so hot. It rained maybe five times a year and I did not even carry an umbrella.
So although recently it has been rainy and cool, even this self-confessed tropical weather chaser has liked it. I have even bought C her first rain coat and it made me ridiculously happy to do so.
I really like living in Herndon. We are very close to where I grew up. I regularly drive past the Pizza Hut I worked at the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. Across the street is the shopping center where the parents of one of my best friends in high school had their Chinese restaurant. C’s swim school is located in the same store space as the Hallmark my mom used to take my sisters and I to spend our allowance. In the same shopping center is the McDonald’s where they gave me a free small fries when I showed up in my Halloween costume (I dressed up as a bag of McDonald’s small fries!) There is also the Giant Food Store my best high school friend worked at for years. The shoe store where I had my first job is now a dry cleaner; the first pizza place I worked is now a Pollo Peru, but the reminders are still there.
I lived my whole childhood in the same place, in this area. Even Falls Church, which I drive through each day to and from the Foreign Service Institute, is not only where I lived when I last did my Foreign Service training, but where I lived with my aunt and uncle one summer in college. I love the Lost Dog and Stray Cat cafes. There is a wonderful park in Falls Church across from the library. I used to walk down there when I lived with my aunt and uncle. I feel my cheeks burn when I think about the time I made out with a boyfriend there. (And they are burning now) When living there 2011-2012 I picked up pregnancy books at the library and just a little way up the street a policeman at the town hall helped me install C’s first car seat.
Washington, DC too is close. As a child, I spent many a day at museums on the National Mall. I still remember the summer my dad worked at the Air and Space Museum and he took me to work one day. We visited the Smithsonian castle and the National Museum of American History many times. Yet the National Museum of Natural History was the runaway favorite, most especially the Egyptian mummies, the dinosaurs, and the live insect section. Later, as an adult, I lived in DC for four years and the Spy Museum, Newseum, and National Portrait Gallery became new favorites.
There are memories really on just about every corner; I have a history here.
I have found myself daydreaming about what it would be like to really live here again, not just to be here on a temporary basis while training at FSI. I try to puzzle out where I would like to live. In the heart of DC in a chic neighborhood like Eastern Market or Georgetown? Falls Church with its small town feel right outside of DC? Reston, in the area right around the pedestrian-friendly shopping center? Or right here in compact, convenient, and historical Herndon?
What really hits me is that C will not grow up in just one place. She will not really have a home town. She may or may not ride her bike around the neighborhood. It will depend on where we are living at the time – if it is the kind of place kids ride bicycles or not. It is highly unlikely her elementary school classmates will also be in her middle and high schools. She may attend as many as three or four elementary schools.
It is not a bad thing. It is only a different thing.
Yet, I find myself feeling wistful.
Then I think ahead to Shanghai. I have heard such good things about living there. I have already compiled a lengthy list of things for C and I to see and do, one for almost one-third of our 104 weekends. I can hardly wait for us to take a stroll along the famous Bund, possibly wearing matching pajamas. I look forward to taking C to the Wild Animal Park and the fantastic Ocean Aquarium. I see us taking in a show of the famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe. And finally the cherry on the top of my I-am-taking-my-Disney-loving-toddler-to-Shanghai sundae: Shanghai Disneyland is slated to open in late 2015.
I think of all the opportunities that C will have. She has already been to more countries by the age of two than many Americans will visit in their lifetimes. She will visit many of the finest places in the world, be they amazing cultural or natural sites, famous or not. She will meet and make friends with people from all over the world. Heck, by this time next year she will probably be speaking Chinese!
Although a single town or area will not have landmarks of her childhood, she will have such landmarks all over the world. That is amazing to think about.