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Sunday, March 1, 2009

China Castaway

Piles of clothes appear to be growing from the floor in clusters...shirts, pants, unmentionables. Several old suitcases are opened and placed sporadically around the room. It's a race to see if I can get the clothes into the suitcase before the cat pees in it. It's a race I end up winning for a change.

The planned one week in the US has stretched to six weeks. Now, only dozens of hours left before leaving home, and the ‘to do’ list remains long. Laundry, packing, shopping, errands…saying goodbye. So many action items - loose ends to tie up...but, I’m thinking of a tropical island prison.

Being back in the US long enough to re-establish a routine, comfort and familiarity makes returning to China as foreign as leaving the first time. Leaving a home here, and no home there to land in. Stressful. TV provides a temporary escape from stress of moving preparation. With much to do, I lose myself in sitcoms and movies, crossing off ‘to do’ items during commercials. I’m moved more than usual by Castaway.

If you are unfamiliar with this 2000 film, here’s the part I focus on…trapped on the island for four years, until by pure chance, the tide brings him flotsam usable as a ‘sail’. The marooned FedEx hero makes a desperate move to escape his tropical imprisonment. Fashioning a make-shift raft equipped with the newly encountered sail, he shoves off. At a critical juncture, he passes perilously breaking waves, thanks to the new found sail, and heads out to sea. Looking back as his island disappears, he is momentarily nostalgic.

Remarkable. This island was his prison, and yet he looks back on it, at least for the moment, fondly, as he heads into the unknown. Here is an example of the powerful pull of the familiar…that an island prison, remains in some ways, more appealing than setting off into uncertainty.

It’s a touching moment, and I can’t help but think of looking back at my home for the last four years as it begins to fade into the distance. I look back with more than a moments nostalgia…much more. If an island prison evokes a mere moment of sentimentality, how many more such moments will a home full of happy memories provide? Indeed, how are all those moments to be dealt with? I’m moving forward with some trepidation, remembering to breath, because tomorrow the sun will rise…and who knows what the tides in China will bring.

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