Well, I'm back. 11 hours from Beijing to Vancouver, 4.5 more to Ottawa. The flight from Beijing seemed fast, which surprised me. I was expecting it to be torturous. I managed to sleep in small doses. Customs in Vancouver was fast and easy, just as Beijing had been. Oh, the security check people in Beijing tried to confiscate my deoderant. I took it out of the officer's hand and shook my head at him, laughing. He was too surprised to do anything, and I embarrassed him in front of his co-workers. So I got away with it and he acted like he meant for me to have it. An American standing next to me stared at me as if I'd sprouted wings. They don't take my nail clippers, my folded scissors... but they try to take my deoderant? I don't think so. That was the sole issue I had.
Arrived at 23:30 on Friday and rushed through the Ottawa airport. Of course, I arrived at a gate the farthest removed from the arrivals area. However, I moved pretty quickly through it and found Angie, my mom and Suzi there, waiting for me. Obviously it was a very happy return, and that's all I'll say.
Angie and I got together with Jamie, Suzi, the kids and Aaron on Saturday morning, and gave out the few gifts I brought back. It felt fantastic to walk down the streets of Ottawa again, down old familiar routes, and to see them all again. It was surreal. Jamie said it best when he said he was surprised that it had been almost 10 months - now that I was back it seemed much less. Very true. I felt the exact same way. Very hard to describe how it seemed on Saturday, and even how it seemed now to be back. A part of me has this odd fear that if I sleep too deeply, I'll wake up to find myself back in Tangshan. The experience feels sometimes to have been so amazing and out of the norm, especially for me, that I've made it up.
I am having issues adapting back. It's just small things. At times I feel disjointed, or I look around and have lost a point of reference. Continuity is that point of reference. Things are mostly the same, but disconnected by a 9-month space of time. One thing that got me was the silence. On Saturday, as Angie and I were walking to Suzi and Jamie's, I think at most I saw a dozen people at any one time. You'd have to be way out in the sticks to only see a dozen people in China. Everything was/is just so quiet, so calm and settled. People held doors open, said "Oh, sorry!" if they stepped on your feet, smiled, nodded their heads in greeting, waved you to go ahead in traffic. All these things... I wasn't walking past people staring or glaring at me, nudging their friends and pointing at me, hearing people hawk and spit, shouting into cellphones, trying to rip me off because I'm not Asian, etc. All these things were startling - things I'd forgotten or had taken for granted.
I've had a fantastic time being back, suffice it to say. Do I miss China? Not yet. My mind has been completely occupied with joy at being back together with Angie, and seeing my friends and family again, including my cat.
On Saturday afternoon after lunch with Suzi, Jamie, Aaron and the kids, Angie and I did some walking. I bought a new belt (having eviscerated my old one - Angie said I should have kept it as a souvenir it was so busted up) and I exposed her to my geekdom with a jaunt into Fandom II. She tolerated my geekiness wonderfully, and persevered through my perusing with great patience. Following that, I got to see where she'll be living come September and we walked over the Canal using the new pedestrian bridge. Walking along the Canal really gave me a solid "I'm back" feeling, yet at the same time, it didn't feel like the same city I knew. I just looked around and thought "damn, how did I not notice how beautiful this city is?!". I saw things with new eyes, or so it felt. It was so relaxing to just walk along the water - warm sun, cool breeze - and feel completely unhurried. We went to Chapters, and I bought a book, one I'd been pining for since I'd gone to China.
That evening, Angie and I got dressed up and headed to the Market to have a date at the Keg. The place was packed, however, and there was a 60-minute wait. We shared a smile and headed out. We wandered past a few more places, and they had lines, too. However, Patty Boland's was reliable as it's always been. It was not exactly what we were looking for, but what we really wanted was to spend an evening together over a good meal and a glass or two of wine in a place without plastic chairs or florescent lighting. It was a done deal. I'm personally very partial to Patty Boland's and I fully credit Roxanne with having introduced me to the place waaaay back when. It's been a favourite of mine ever since.
Stepping out of Patty Boland's, we ran into Graham M, a friend from my old workplace. Graham and I both just stopped and looked at each other for a good second or two before either of our brains clicked. We chatted for a few minutes, and told me that he had just parted company with Kelly who had gone into Touche. Angie and I went in and I got to surprise the hell out of Kelso, whose birthday it was! Andrew was obviously there, but so was Andrea. They got to meet Angie, and she and Kelly chatted while I talked to Andrew and his friend. While we only planned to stay to say hi, we were there for an hour or so. It was great.
After that, we hit the Highlander to stop in and say hi to a friend of Angie's whose birthday it also was. We had a drink there as well, and talked for a bit. We got back to where we were staying around midnight, and just passed out. Woke up, re-packed, and went for breakfast at the Elgin Street Diner with Adam. We wandered in the Rideau Centre afterwards. (I finally found an English-subtitled copy of "Infernal Affairs" with Leung Chow-Wei - ironically I couldn't find an English subtitled version of it in China. Infernal Affairs 2 and 3? Yes. The original? No. Now I have it. I also ordered two copies of Blues Brothers.) Outside HMV, I ran into yet another former co-worker, one I'd kept running into all over downtown Ottawa for the past three years. I can never remember his name, though. Then we hung out with Adam's roommate and sat out on his back deck for a while, just shooting the breeze and enjoying the weather.
Anyway... it's been incredible. I'm at my parents' place now, just taking it easy, watching The Fugitive on a massive screen, resisting going to sleep. Pele did not take to me right away. She needed some time to remember me, and get used to me. However, after a few hours, she was whoring herself on me like old times, purring like a an old junker (which she is, I guess) and extending and retracting her claws on my chest in contentment. I'm going to have to take her back after I get settled since my dad is not her biggest fan, to say the least. I just worry how she'll be after yet another move.
Well, I guess it's time to watch the rest of this here movie, then get some sleep. It's good to be back.