My walls are naked, the posters promising me Chinese words and characters I never learned taken down, the art projects I fished from the art room's trash have been peeled away, and now I walk into a big ugly white room with soot-framed boxes on the wall where cool colorful things used to be.
I am getting ready to leave Jilin, and I am happy.
I almost wrote "and I have mixed feelings," but I don't, because the surge of good times and goodbyes can swell inside you and make you forget how difficult and long the year has been. It can create an almost false sense of happiness. False isn't the right word, because it's real: when you take photos with students and you talk to them for the last time, when you eat meals with Jim and James and Kevin and Jenny for the last time, when you run by the Song Hua river for that last glimpse of a Jilin afternoon. It's real, and it's strong, and it reminds you of all the good times this last year, and you thankfully forget the long cold empty months of winter, the isolation and the dislocation and all that other bad stuff. So in some ways it's really nice to trick yourself into thinking Jilin was easy and a breeze and maybe even worth doing again ... but year two in China is all I have patience for. That same tricked worked in Zhanjiang, and I came back to China and realized just what another year entails, only the second year has lost the glimmer of the new and has nothing but a slow fading afterglow.
So I've got naked walls, an empty wardrobe, a pile of clothes that are too big for me that I'll be dropping off at the seminary soon, and a long list of to-dos before I go. I can't believe this year is drawing to a close. I can't believe by the end of this month Zhanjiang, Jilin, China will be in my past, I can't believe all the stuff I have to pack and do before I leave, and I can't wait to see what I'll be doing next.