Helpless living far away from home

By Lisa Linssen Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/3 18:08:39

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

I am sure people who have ever lived abroad or traveled abroad have run into a situation where they have felt helpless. Whether it was due to cultural differences, language barriers or some other problem, being abroad can spur a sense of vulnerability.

The longer you live abroad the less likely you are to come across such uncomfortable situations, but of course, you will never be completely free of them. Nevertheless, there is another situation when the feeling of helplessness can occur while living abroad that has nothing to do with a situation in your host country, but rather in your home country. That is when something very bad happens back home, for example, a close friend or even a family member is very sick or dies. You are so very far away and it is difficult to help or go visit home. Simply said you are helpless.

While China is not off the beaten track, it is, at least for Westerners, more than just a train ride away from home. Even if something unforeseen or bad has happened and I needed to get back home as soon as possible, it would most likely take me two days to get home. And since one has established a life in China, has a job, a partner, and friends it is not that easy to go back home to stay with family and friends for an extended time. Eventually, work would expect us to return. Even if you can stay one or two months back home, it is not enough time.

Just take my friend as an example. One of my friends' mother died some time ago and I gained first-hand experience on how tough it is when you are far away from home. Most of us living abroad for a long time have a sense of being detached from home. Because you are not there all the time, you cannot share your daily life with friends and family. In times of great pain and loss, sharing each other's sorrow, especially on a daily basis is very essential. If you are not around to do that, you always feel more desperate and helpless.

My friend told me how useless she felt because she could only comfort her family over the phone. How badly she wanted to give everyone a hug to ease the pain, both for her and her family. She said she felt like she is letting down her family and despite having a lot of great friends in Beijing, none of them knew her mother and couldn't appreciate the fun stories she had to tell them. My friend also felt it would not be essential for her to constantly be with her family, but she would like to be with them more often for a shorter time. Maybe every weekend or every other week, but the distance from China is just too far for a short trip home.

The story of my friend really got me thinking, what if my mother was to suddenly die? I would feel just as helpless and useless being in Beijing and not at home like my friend does. From afar it's just too difficult to be of any help. I don't consider moving home now, but if something bad was to happen, I might.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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