One doesn't need to be standing next to a best friend to lighten the load. It's sometimes enough just to know that others feel the same worries, the same pressures, have the same questions. Maybe it is true here, but it's hard to access. Either people don't open up much, or they just don't open up to us. I suspect both is true. I was recently asked by SAFEA (State Administration for Foreign Affairs) to complete a "knowledge test". I'd say 'general knowledge' except that it wasn't. It was mostly facts about the USA and Chinese culture, with the odd bit of maths thrown in. One of the questions was: "Would you generally describe the Chinese people as...(a) excited (b) outgoing (c) supressed (d) lively?" I opted for supressed, though I know it varies according to place, person etc. Maybe I'll lose my job for this somewhat negative view but where we see excited, outgoing and lively people it tends to be in a crowd, expressing drilled sentiment like jia you ("come on!") next to a basketball court. I find it hard to have a heart to heart because people don't often express their own feelings.
I'm still here, still doing my job, still smiling and making the most of life, but when I fall asleep and wake up in the morning, it is often with a heavy heart. If I think of Scotland, if I think of Freda being ill, if I think of many things, I feel profoundly sad. I'm homesick and probably have symptoms of mild depression but it's hard to leave. I love my job. I have a job. We have a home and the children have a reasonably happy life. Ali doesn't have a job but is writing a book and seems happy to have escaped the 9 to 5 routine of the BGS. We spend the holidays travelling to fascinating places and exploring rich and interesting cultures. We have a couple of friends who know a little part of us and accept us for who they think we are. That's as good as it gets in many cases. The fact that half of our selves are shelved back in Scotland may be irrelevant. Every environment forces one to compromise in one way or another. So what's the problem?
I'm lonely and isolated. That's hard to manage sometimes. There are emotions behind the mask and that's a very real part of this VSO life.