It's been fourteen months - fourteen months of living, learning, working, playing, loving, traveling. Fourteen months of seeing, experiencing, and I daresay growing.
In the scheme of things, a year and change is hardly a long time to be abroad alone - in my travels, I've met tanned, wizened Chinese men working in Africa on 3-year contracts; a red-bearded Israeli fellow in the process of biking around the world; and one very wild-looking Frenchman who had been out for a year and was just getting started.
That said, it feels like an age has passed - a "life of Men." Since leaving the U.S., I've been to eleven countries (or will have, after my Cairo stopover tomorrow morning), though I've only stayed in six of them - China, Taiwan, Philippines, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa - for more than 24 hours. I have enjoyed Taipei at Christmastime; spent my birthday on a trip to the frigid Mongolian border; climbed and camped among the dunes of the Singing Sands in western China; been intimidated by policemen on the southern coast; been welcomed into the "expatriate" Uighur community of the coastal provinces; and lived in Beijing through the extremes of all four seasons. I've fallen in and out of love, and various other relationships; made several friends, and many more associates; promised dozens of people that I will meet them at the airport if they ever come to New York, and sometimes meant it. I have lived at times in palatial arrangements, and at times like a pauper. I have enjoyed several of the major vices, and refined them all back to moderation. I count among my new skills bargain-hunting, bottle-opening, and bag-tying -- oh, and my Chinese has also improved enough to be useful in both professional and social environments. I have grown more confident, less credulous, and maybe even wiser. I have seen a little bit of a few facets of the world, and in doing so come to realize how little I actually know about my own nation, let alone others.
But it's high time to be headed home, to the friends and family who speak my language and know me best. I'm looking forward to everything from my grandmother's cooking to the pressure and rewards of life at Yale.
This will be my last update from the Great Abroad: I have a plane to catch. But it will not be the last post to this blog. While at home and at Yale, I plan to flesh out some notes I've taken over the past year - thoughts I never got the chance to blog about. So check back every week or two, if you're still interested in my ideas on some of the things I've learned and seen. It's not over yet -- I'll tell you when.
See you in the world.