Though I’ve been too busy to get homesick, I’m looking forward to my upcoming sojourn in New Jersey. I’ll be returning home for a three-week stay in late January and early February after Pat and I travel around China during my semester break.
Our tour will include Beijing and Shanghai, along with trips to see the Terracotta Warriors and Big Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, the Giant Panda Research & Breeding Base in Chengdu, and the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces near Longsheng. We’ll also make a brief stop in Zhengzhou, where I’ll show Pat my humble studio apartment, the drab campus of Henan University of Technology and the convenience store where I buy all my junk food.
Last night at a Zhengzhou restaurant, I met a teacher who grew up near me in the Philadelphia area, a bar owner who went to high school near the city where I worked on my first daily newspaper and a Ph.D. student who goes to college near my home in New Jersey.
Talk about a small world.
The encounters took place at Zax BBQ, a new restaurant specializing in Southern U.S. cooking that’s owned by an Atlanta native and his Chinese wife. I went there with four other teachers, and together we made up our own mini United Nations: Greg is from Tasmania, Amos is from Singapore, Darren is from Scotland, Peter is a transplanted Brit from France, and I’m an American from Joisey.
My beautiful niece Elizabeth Selzam got married in the backyard of her parents’ home in Jackson, New Jersey. And I got to watch it live from 7,000 miles away on my MacBook Air.
Because of a choppy connection with Pat’s iPad, I couldn’t hear or see the entire ceremony. However, I could tell from all the beaming faces that it was a wonderful day. I was a little groggy, since the wedding took place at 1:40 in the morning my time, but it was worth staying up for.
I’ve been Skyping or Facetiming Pat every day, in the morning and at night. The 12-hour time difference between Zhengzhou and New Jersey works out perfectly because morning here is nighttime there and vice versa. So when one of us is getting up, the other is going to bed. And when one of us is working, the other is sleeping.
It’s truly amazing to see a clear picture of someone 7,000 miles away while you talk to them. When Pat uses her iPad, I can see her eating in the kitchen, playing with the dogs or feeding the fish. When I was a kid, this was Buck Rogers, sci-fi stuff. Now I know how my grandparents, who were born in the horse-and-buggy era, felt when we landed on the moon.