So, one 13-hour flight, 5-hour layover, 2.5-hour flight, and post-flight-travel-arrangements later, I'm sitting in my hotel in Austin. Being home is ... surprisingly normal. I was wrong about it feeling strange. The novelty of seeing familiar faces was good but lasted for only a short while. Now I feel, well, I live here. I suppose that's a good thing. That I can feel so comfortable so easily in two very disparate locations :-)
Sunday was nice. I ate lunch with Kevin. We went to Curra's, this fantastic Mexican establishment on Oltorf St. Then we went to my old apartment to see my old roommate/landlord. I took a tour of the place to see what he'd done with my old room and studio. They're looking nice. The three of us spent a couple hours just bullshitting. I flashed back on the fact that I lived there for two years. Relived some moments. And kept telling myself that I've only been gone for 6 months. Sometimes it feels like a short amount of time; other times it feels like it's been much longer.
Afterwards I picked up a copy of The Onion (whose RSS feed, for whatever reason, doesn't work in China) and the Austin Chronicle and set out for Mozart's to read in the late-afternoon sunshine. It was wonderful. I felt compelled to buy a Mozart's t-shirt to wear around Shanghai and hopefully identify fellow Austinites ;-) Then Shawna and some of her friends and I ate dinner at the Hula Hut. Then we went back to her place to play Wii bowling, and I totally would have won the second game (turkey!!) if a thunderstorm hadn't interrupted us by cutting out the power. I claim victory nonetheless :-)
I didn't sleep at all on Sunday night. Literally, not at all. I alternated between lying in bed awake and reading. At 7 AM I decided to get up and partake of my hotel's "breakfast" (consisting of hard bagels, bananas, and coffee). Then I headed into work.
Work has changed in many ways. Many people have left, and we've hired many new people as a result. So, there are many strange faces, both on my team and around the rest of the building. That is inevitable though in any organization. Still, when someone I know leaves NI, it always shocks me a bit, because it's like, disrupting a small part of my known universe ;-) My team is sitting in a different location than before I left (and likely will be in another spot when I return for good). Some of the cafeteria workers appear to have left also.
But by and large, many of the familiar faces I left are still here. I spent a good long while walking around to my former teammates and saying hello. Then I gave a lunchtime presentation to many of them about Shanghai and the Chinese language. It felt good. I was really nervous about doing it, but I think it turned out okay.
I also didn't really think about this, but I came home at a good time. We have off work on Thursday and Friday, so I only have to use my brain for three days this week ;-)
This morning I was up at 3:45 but I didn't mind because I went to bed around 8 PM, so I feel that qualifies at 8 hours of sleep :-)
Speaking of sleep, this is a sleepy little town. I always thought of Austin as a rather large city, because it was the largest I'd ever lived in. But compared to Shanghai, this place is a piddling little backwater truck stop. Driving along I-35 I saw the Frost Bank Tower, the (now second-)tallest building in Austin, and was like aww, one single 33-story building. "It thinks it's a city! How cuuuuute!" Now that's not necessarily a bad thing. One reason I enjoyed Austin before is its nice blend of big-city nightlife and culture with a relaxed small-town vibe. That appears to be intact. It's just that I have a different perspective now -- I'm used to some insane hustle-and-bustle.