Today, I went to the antique market in Beijing. Flea markets and antique markets have been my happy place ever since my grandpa started dragging me at 6 am every first Sunday to the Alameda Antique Faire. The first few 6ams were hard and my alarm always woke me up in a frenzy, but after that, I couldn’t wait to be woken up by my alarm. I could spend a morning with my grandpa looking for funky pants and sweaters and eating snacks along the way. Those Sundays will always be my favorite Sundays. I have been missing my Grandpa while I have been abroad, as I knew I would miss my friends and family.
While I was walking to the train station in the freezing cold, I felt a rush of happiness and warmth I hadn’t felt in a while. I realized it was because I was going to an antique market. While I was technically thousands of miles away from my grandpa, this antique market made me feel so much closer to him.
I decided to call him and tell him about my adventure I was embarking on. Calling him made it feel like those 6ams we used to have: chilly fingers tucked into my armpits for warmth, meanwhile he’d look at me and tell me that I’d better go buy a warm sweater I liked to keep me warmer and toss me a wink. While it made me so sad he couldn’t join and bargain with me, it still made me feel like I was hanging out with him. He was there in spirit and taught me everything I know about antiques and bargaining.
Finding ways to stay close with friends and family is important when studying abroad, especially in a group. It is hard to continue talking to the same people every day who are on your program, and it is always so refreshing when I find the time and privacy to talk to my friends from home. It is challenging sometimes when the timing doesn’t match up. Sometimes, there isn’t privacy or there aren’t precious wifi spaces (this was especially hard in China). Or, it seems expensive to spend money on long distance calls. But, I think I would go crazy if I didn’t maintain contact with people from home. It allows me to vent about my trip or talk about things that don’t revolve my trip thus creating a space for me to escape this journey when I feel the need to.
Today was a reminder that there are ways to feel close no matter how far I am. I can do things that my friends from home would like to do, or in today’s case, I could go to an antique market with my grandpa in mind, feeling closer to him. I forget that it’s okay to spend a day alone, or to spend lunch on FaceTime with your friend at your new favorite Chinese restaurant (shout out to Ari and Shanna who are always down to eat a meal with me via FaceTime). And as time goes on, I realized it’s also okay to feel lonely in big groups and feel homesick. I assumed that being in a big group would mean I would always feel like I had friends and support, but sometimes being surrounded by people can make you feel lonelier and more isolated. It depends on the day and week, but it happens and its okay.
I think that as the holidays start to roll in, I will begin to feel more homesick. Therefore I need to practice what I know will make me feel better. I need to do the activities I would have done at home, whether that’s going to an antique fair or going on a run. Making time to talk to my friends will also be a priority and bringing the holiday spirit I find at home to Asia can come with little creative ideas.
As I have reiterated so many times, I feel grateful to be on this trip. With that comes great guilt when I don’t feel uppity, happy, or when I feel homesick. And, on the other hand, being homesick makes me confront the ideas I had about myself, believing I was so independent and would never miss home. It is an important reminder that there are also so many things at home that I am grateful for that I forget in my everyday life there. I am grateful for the 6 am mornings at the flea markets with my grandpa, and I am grateful that I have people around me that support me. I miss home right now, but missing home is allowing me to connect more with my loved ones while I am abroad, essentially bringing them on my journey. They deserve to be remembered and included while I am here abroad because they are the reason why I got to come here.