Friday, September 29, 2017

Religion in Ethiopia

The constitution of Ethiopia ensures religious freedom for its citizens. According to the US Department of State, this is widely upheld through the observance of additional laws and policies.

Ethiopia was one of the first sub-Saharan African countries to adopt the Christian religion, and its practice dates back to the 1st Century AD. The Ethiopian Orthodox religion is the most widely practiced with 43.5% of the population identifying as such.

The Church of Ethiopia is one of the few Churches of Christendom where the worship of the primitive church has been preserved. This is largely due to the geographical position of Ethiopia and to the historical developments that led to her virtual isolation from the rest of the Christian world from the seventh century, as a result of which Ethiopia retained the form of worship she had received in the 4th century.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Fear Constructed

Fear is a brutal force when faced with it far from familiarity. 
Airline food. 
I do not know what that pancake looking thing is. 
Is this meat? 
I believe all of this was made for martians. 
Where are my M & Ms? 
I wonder what is on this cream colored stained carpet?
Is there something in this bed? 
Hand sanitizer please. 
This bus is dusty. How do asthmatics possibly survive?

Water got in my feet. I can hear Jenny screaming in my head. 
Will that dog attack me?
What are those men saying to me?
Should I keep my line walking ahead towards them?
Where is your hand sanitizer? Can I use it?
My whiteness I can't hide. There is no blending in here. 
What are those women staring at? 
Why are these people surrounding us?
I have taken many things for granted. Everything really.
My heart is beating fast. There are many children and they are crowding in fast. 
Who keeps grabbing me?
Hundreds of handshakes and shoulder bumps. Hundreds. 
I am sinking in mud. 
This market is killing me Smalls.

Can I pour that hand sanitizer over my feet and set them on fire please?
Comet. Hm. Would that work? 
I am holding my breath in the hospital. Yet there is no yellow fever here. 
That kid just hugged me. For a long time. 
Best and fearful feelings arise.
I love that kid. 
Hand sanitizer please!!!
I am fighting a battle against reality. I'm good at fiction. 
My body is stronger than I give it credit for. 
How high up are we going?? 
Is that little stick fence down there supposed to catch me? My god. 

That cushion she is sitting in looks 150 years old. 
Her white robe is spotless though. 
There is something red on my forehead. 
The sharpness in my chest takes my breath away. 
I am in the way to the hospital by morning. 
What will I find? 
Does this hospital have The same conditions as the last one we toured?
Clean hallways greet me. 
The doctor is in familiar crisp white. 

My ease returns. Familiarity is the most soothing feeling I have had here yet. 
I feel the singe of burning tears well up in my eyes. 
Swallow hard and get on with it.
It is only fear. 
Fear imagined, fear constructed, fear consumed.
False Events Appearing Real.
Hand sanitizer as I leave? 
Who cares. 
I have my meds.  
That was faster than any American hospital I have ever been in.
So much for fear.
As usual, no matter where I am, I am and will be ok.
It is dirty here. And beautiful, hopeful, ambitious, and real. 
Ethiopia does not hide itself. 
It is alive. 
Ethiopia has broken me. 
Thank God. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Saw A Few Things . . .

Families. Women and children walking hand in hand with husbands.
Plastic chairs and tables in a myriad of colors
Smiling, shrieking children waving with huge smiles. 
Others stare with narrowed eyes and unfriendly glares. 
Quite probably my imagination. Or not. I shall never know.

I see a boy hop on a donkey like a pro. Rodeo Ethiopia.
Hay cylinders with pointed tops 
Skinny stick piles tied neatly together 
Houses in all stages of the mud plaster process
Piles of cows lounging on the sides of roads with spacious fields behind them as far as they eye can see. 
Deep green vegetation and the darkest black soil tilled by yoked oxen. 
Yards with laundry, chickens, and goats, porches, fires, fences, and numerous buildings connected together.
Corn. Is that corn? 
Trees super spaced out among large boulders
Crowded town sidewalks with fruit stacked in neat pyramids. 
Bustling dirt and cement sidewalks. 
Storefronts lined up all selling the same things.
Where are the gas stations? 
Crazy traffic patterns and huge potholes.
Bright blue Lada taxis stuffed to the brim with humans on the way to a million destinations. 

Mosques with minarets pointing to Paradise. 
Fabrics and babies in slings
Waves of people an friendly smiles all around
Shoe shiners with yellow buckets that remind me of lemonade containers
Tin fences, gray, silver, black, blue, yellow, and green
Walkers remote and urban
Chatting colleagues fighting jet lag
Sun, rain, sun, rain
I saw a donkey who looked like he was mediataing under a tree
Colorful arches indicate schools or government offices
Umbrellas. Hundreds of them. 
Bars and coffee houses full of socialization, mostly men
Skinny jeans, suit coats, hats and sunglasses 
Teens that remind me of my students and make me miss my friend Jill.
White prayer caps 

Ping pong and pool tables 
TV satellites on top of rusty and clean tin roofs
Electric lines on skinny poles
Crowded buses and vendors. Teen and child entrepreneurs selling technology accessories
I saw a SIM card entered into the back of my new Nokia phone. 
300 Birr no haggling. 
Banana leaves reaching straight up for the sky. Vince tells me they are the tallest grass species.
I saw a 25-30 year old foreign service communications director at the US Embassy. The guy in Kazakhstan looked and sounded the same. 
Policy, culture, economic development, education, modernization of technology are topics of discussion.
Granite, marble, clean glass and impeccably mowed lawns of the US Embassy. 
Jenny would feel quite warm and cozy here. 
The Japanese lost this embassy land when Ethiopia gave it to the USA.
Japan cooperated with the Italians. Ethiopia didn't like that much.
Ethiopian Unity through diversity.
Dirt piles in places that surprise me
Tall mountains dotted with houses and winding steep paths straight up up up up up

This 6 hour bus ride has turned into 10. 
A white dirty land roving jeep with huge wheels and a USAID sticker on the door.
The no machine gun sticker in the back window leads me to pause and wonder. 
I awake with a really sore neck and body. 
That pothole shook my bones really hard. 
It is pitch black outside. 
I wonder if animals are out there that will eat my face off. Probs.
We drive through cities with storefronts lit with flashing twinkle lights in purple, reds, and greens. 
Two people pass us on a motorbike. Where is that freaking town??? 
I am bangry, bus angry. 
The stars make the sky look absolutely massive. It takes my breath away.
Does the constant squeaking mean those shocks are gone on the front of this bus? 
I want to drive a motor bike. 
I am fairly certain we shall never arrive. 
I wonder what Gavin and Sean are doing and I question my job.  
I think of Billy gently running his hands through my hair on my comfy couch.  
I close my eyes overwhelmed.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Emperor Halie Selassie & The Derg

For those who are interested, I will write a bit in depth about things we learned from our days here.  If you want to view a lot of images, feel free to check them out on my Instagram:  Erin Towns

After a 13 hour flight we landed in the capital city of Addis Ababa.

We have a lot of luggage.  There are 18 people traveling with our group, many who will go on after the program is over to other areas of Ethiopia to tour and study.

It is damp here.  The first thing I smelled was rain and dirt as we walked out of the airport.  We were greeted by our new hosts with roses and handshakes and shoulder bumps which are the way people here say hello.

We headed to University College of Addis Ababa to hear about Ethiopian culture and the life of one of Ethiopia's best known leaders, Emperor Halie Selassie  We were first treated to a visit to the John F. Kennedy Library that is housed on campus.

Halie Selassie was the son of Ras Makonnen, and ruled from 1916-1974 and was believed to be a walking god in Ethiopia.  While he was very international in many ways, he was accused of many human rights violations.  In the early 1970s, Ethiopia was suffering a terrible famine which the government and landed aristocracy tried to keep very quiet resulting in the most terrible suffering for farmers and high death tolls from starvation.  To make things worse, farmers were taxed enormous amounts.

People started to rebel and people started dying.  This led to the rise of another leader, one who would be the subject of our next museum visit of the day.  The leader's name was Mengistu Haile Mariam, leader of the Derg regime that eventually became the The People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, from 1974-1991.

"As if I bore them all in one night, they slew them in a single night."

These words were spoken by the mother of four teenage children all killed on the same day by the Derg, as she officially opened the small but powerful Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum in 2010.   The rooms in the museum reveal the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie and the horrors of life under Mengistu's Derg regime.

The regime came to power promising democracy and equality for all under communist ideology and nationalization of land and economy.

Opposition to the reign of the Derg started when the Derg unleashed its "Red Terror" campaign against intellectuals and anyone who spoke out against them.

The tour was pretty intense at many points as stories and exhibitions detailed the brutal torture and execution that were part of this period of Ethiopian history.   Like many fellow Ethiopian citizens, the man giving the tour was a survivor of the Derg and told us repeatedly that it was incredibly important to never forget in order to never have something like it happen again.

He stated that he would like American teachers and students to teach and study this period of Ethiopian history in hopes that the lessons learned here could help other areas of the world to also avoid it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ya Know, I Just Got Back . . . Off To Ethiopia

Part of the gig on trying to implement more global education into the classroom involves traveling with students.  It forever changes them.  There is nothing more glorious than watching them explore new areas of the globe.  Teacher travel with students is full of a lot of fun, and involves an incredible amount of work and problem solving.  Our students just returned from a trip that took them by planes, trains, automobiles and ferries to France, England, Wales, and Ireland.  It was the best of times and the worst of times but at the end of it all, it was totally worth it.


So after a 5 day "rest," I find myself again traveling, this time for global professional development as part of a Fulbright Hays Curriculum Development Project in Ethiopia studying indigenous wisdom and culture with a team from the University of Pittsburgh.

Addis Ababa                                                            Sodo

Check out the project if you are interested:  Ethiopia:  Indigenous Wisdom & Culture

For my teaching peers, bookmark this map of Fulbright Hays Projects from this year.  It can provide information for projects and organizations that fund global professional development.  Fulbright-Hays programs provide grants to individuals to participate in cultural exchanges abroad.  Projects focus on curriculum development and research abroad.    Map:  IFLE Grantee Institutions

I am going to try my best to update this blog as much as possible during the trip.  My goal is to complete an ethnographic study that I can then use to design curriculum for Maine students.

Ethnography is a broad research approach/style.  It includes collecting data about culture and history using a variety of methods such as participatory observation, semi-structured interviews, and video diaries that will be combined to bring insight into Ethiopia.

Ethnography aims to get under the skin of human behavior, to better understand the world and the specifics of the cultures we live in.  I will bring back what I learn about values, attitudes and norms, motivations, and human behavior and share them with teachers and students in hopes of creating learning opportunities that examine the same in Maine, USA.

I am going to try to avoid giving you long winded discussion about what I think about this culture because frankly, it doesn't matter what I think.  What matters more is what you think about what are are seeing and what you learn.

So goodbye my friends.  We board in a few minutes from Washington DC to depart on our great adventure.

I am super tired, the jet lag I . . . . .

Who cares about jet lag really.  I can sleep when I am dead.

Friday, January 1, 2016

China Assaults My Senses

It has been a year and a half since my return from China.  There are not many days that pass that I do not think of my experiences there.  It is incredible to me just how long it has taken me to process what I saw.  It is an ongoing thing.  Every year I recollect something different or connect things that I did not realize I should have connected all along.  The understanding and insight I gained in my travels not only to China, but to Kazakhstan, Japan, Mexico and Europe help me to understand contemporary actions and issues I see in the news.  I teach in an area that affords me the delight and opportunity to teach students from all over the world.  Experiences I had as a traveling teacher help me to be considerate and mindful of their needs and perspectives.  These are all gifts I have received.

I came across something that I wrote mostly while riding on buses throughout China in the summer of 2014.    It started merely as a list of adjectives, sights, sounds and feelings I was experiencing.  I added to it when I returned but put it aside while my busy life of being a mother, teaching, volunteering, and public speaking swallowed me whole again.

This is a bit about some of the things I heard, saw, and felt.


Wow.  Crowded.
People are touching me constantly.  
Putrid garbage stench assaults my senses.
Incense sweetens it.
Truck exhaust and air pollution form gray skies.
Humidity is excruciating.  My armpits sweat and fear dissipates as the reality sets in.
Everything is sticky and wet.  
Hot feet swollen in pinching shoes.
What is this film on my skin?  
Green plush vegetation between mountain peaks that cleave the sky in two.
China has two faces.
One for what is shown and other for reality and beauty underneath.
Cold senior stares into my soul.  
I feel they don’t like me much.
Their eyes are devoid of understanding of my kind.  
I see kind smile lines turned up on round weathered faces as they look at their grandchildren.  
Bouncing children, loud, laughing, everywhere.  
I get shy stares as they push into their parents' side.  They think I can’t see them.
Averting gazes and all out mouth dropping stares greet me as I run down the street.
Motionless stares too.
Half smiles are given and I hear shrieks of what seems like laughter at us. 
I am experiencing the self consciousness of being in foreign lands.
Community is strong. 
The aroma of spices and dried foods and the sounds of chicken or pork sizzling are everywhere.
Steam rises from stands with hot dumplings filled with greens.
Urine-stenched sidewalks and tunnels to subway.  I think of New York City instantly.  
Why are you screaming friends?  What can be seen can never be unseen.  Hutong lavatories.  
The hum of the bus engine makes my eyes heavy.
I am laughing with Ida, again.  
Sounds of tin cans on the marble floor are met with the sight of a person asking for donations or help.
Limbless men are sleeping or calling out to people passing on a lit bridge on a dark, hot, humid night in Beijing.
Sensory overload upon sighting hundreds in one spot.  The world is larger than I ever imagined in my wildest dreams.
People bustling, playing exercise, looking for relief from the never ending heat.  It is 10 pm, babies are up.
Basketballs thumping and yells on soccer field. Dull thud of fists flying and yelling men over plays gone awry.
The feel of cold droplets on top of my skull is followed by creeping fear rising up from my heart. What the heck was that from above?
Shiny beautifully cleaned floors of restaurants with round tables and the largest Lazy Susan I have ever seen.
Half bellies hanging out everywhere.  Natural air conditioning I am told.  
Do not drink cold water.  I wish I could have ice.  Just one cube please.  Just one!!
Cold water throws off balance.
I wonder how many years I took off of my life running in Beijing.  Mask.  Note to self.
I recoil with disgust as I watch him spit right there inside.  Clash of cultural appropriateness.  
I guess we will point to that table.  She can’t understand what we are saying.  That looks good over there.
The rolls of the waitresses eyes and the sound of her exasperation follows as we fumble some more.  A pencil will not help matters here.
Guy on a couch indoors smoking a butt.  I think of the teachers room in my elementary school in the 1980s.
My eyes dart past the young child squatting on the park sidewalk. No diapers pile landfills here.
Social women thick as thieves hanging every night.  This is a collective culture.
Arms sway slowly, fans open thoughtfully at the very same moment . No individual interpretation except the awkward fumbling Americans in the back row.
Thumbs up for trying.  The Chinese are welcoming and encouraging thankfully.  
Men crowded around low tables throwing dice on a street corner.
Full families on scooters. 
Constant horns blaring. Cars dart quickly.  Bikes, bikes, bikes.
The soup is hot but the noodles are hotter.  
The smooth hum and motion of the bus and the jarring of the breaks 100 times in a city block.
Pain in my neck and shoulders waking groggy from a much needed nap.  Where are we??
Ankles swelling and legs aching for movement. Stop talking. 
I wish they would tell us more. Harold explains everything so well.  
I hear Clara.  Asking questions.  God love her.  She has the best questions.
Makes sense. Nothing changes. It has always been this way here. Cultural consistency lost, trying to figure a new way.
Stuff, watches , shoes , fans, Buddhas, trinkets, bracelets, nutty snacks, Maos hollow empty stare from plates, posters, car chimes, t shirts, magnets and pins.
Special price. Just for you. 
Materialism unleashed, unchecked and out of control. Not homesick for this.  
Walmart on steroids.  
Dirty brown and yellow river, sound of rushing water moving fast. Would I survive? It would pin me for sure. I would drown.
For the love of God, please may this bridge hold.  Will I see my boy again?
Neon lights and cool breeze on the hot deck of an evening boat.
Vertical towers holding thousands times a million. Endless as the eye can see. They differ In color and clutter.  Nothing more.
Lights so bright I fear a seizure.  Jenny would know what to do.  I miss laughing with her terribly.
Chatter of Mandarin. Indecipherable at all times. Confusion and hand miming to figure it out. The eternal game of charades is perfected.
Reds, yellows, green and blues. The boldest and brightest I have ever seen. Gold leaf jumps off and glistens in light. Looks like thick paint.
Naps on motorcycles, couches and chairs along the roads. Sometimes concrete.
Lines of parked mopeds, dusty, new, paint chipped, rusty, colorful, foam peeking through a ripped seat.
The motorbikes.  Sometimes full of families, best friends, suitcases, construction materials or shopping bags. You can actually fit quite a bit. No warning flags fly on long items though. People here use common sense.
Not a helmet insight but face masks, plastic visors, arm coverings or blankets and sheets wrapped around legs and laps.
Umbrellas abound. Every color imaginable. Shimmery green glistening in the unrelenting sun with flower borders in black lace was a favorite.  The sun is brutal.
Clean shiny glass fronts of a westernized Shanghai shopping district reminds me of going home. Disappointment to see it surprising. Not disappointment to go home - I can taste the anticipation of Maine climate and ocean water- but disappointment in names , brands, materials that rob tradition, memory and culture. 
Frustration that arises with the little things your peers are doing after spending every day with them for a month. And the disappearance of it moments later replaced by admiration for the people they are and what they do. I love this crew. Truly. 
Roll with it girl.
The chatter of my peers, of home, of schools, administrators, great programs, shitty professional development that doesn't make sense, history, architecture, evaluations of speakers, hotels, internet connectivity, blogging, stomachs, sites to see, pedagogy, ideas, ideals, politics, art, and family. 
Jose’s poster is the best.
What are you doing later?  Follow Amy to explore.  She goes everywhere and fast.
Cranes, cranes, cranes jetting out far from the tops of endless numbers of new apartment high rises. Who will live here? 
Crowded occupancy, windows open, air conditioning units outside of windows dripping water 20 stories below. Laundry strung across outdoor porches trying to dry in less than 2 days. 
Red flag. Bright yellow stars, each one for groups in Chinese society. One star for all. Centralization is paramount.
Hot breezes on face skin is radiating steam, it is always wet. Eyebrows are heavy with sweat droplets that stream into eyes and sting. 
My skin looks amazing.
Limbs are heavy running around a hot track. The winded dizzy feeling comes fast when as you sweat into air already thick with humidity. 
That old man just lapped me.  I will get him next time.  
Never did.  
If you don’t like China, or studying about China, why are you here?   I couldn't believe my ears.
Just when you think you have heard it all, you haven’t.
Nervous anxiousness digging for subject matters to discuss with a family we just met. Smiling to myself as we find common ground in many things. Student personality characteristics are global. Your doppleganger exists, living and breathing and being you somewhere else in the world.  Oh yes.  They are.
The roll of eyes upwards searching for correctly translated words. Their brains must be exhausted at the end of the day because mine is too.  Communication is exhausting.
Straining and focusing to hear soft whisper of a female's voice. My cultural instinct is to tell her to speak up. I mistake volume for confidence. The confidence is in her walk and look of her eyes.
Red, white, and blue accordion like model housing. The migrants are building this city in royal and baby blue clothing. 
“You are going to Chongqing?” is always followed by a deep belly laugh.  “The furnace city” always follows.  I feel my stomach flip.  I am hot already.  
Reds are sharp. They are everywhere in deep crimson.
I like my roomie Yolanda.  I hope the next is as full of perspective and interesting conversation as she is.  Rotating roommates is part of the travel gig.
I am nervous as my back hits the turf. Does fake grass have pesticides? Why am I constantly scared of chemicals being from the US, a country who poisons me everyday via food? 
Clothes of every form and color hang drying in the breeze from lines and poles. Collectively that building could clothe a small village there are so many.
I watch Sherry's eloquent hands, signing for the camera and her students and think of watching my deaf mother and her friends converse when I was a child.  
Hot spicy sneezing ensues. Welcome to Chongqing, furnace of China. More hot pot?
What is that meat?  Or is it seafood?  What is that??!!
The bleeping of video games on the crowded subway. I stare over his shoulder as he plays the speed piano game that Gavin does. I ache to see my boy. Homesickness pangs are frequent as I daily question if I am a good mother being here without him. 
The answer, I conclude, is in the center where all things should and often do exist. 
You are charged for dirty towels in a hotel with a kid peeing on the floor of the dining room. No one says much about the kid.  They want 5 RMB for the towel though.
Sun rays bounce off the thick blue large plastic water cooler containers stacked 15 high on a moped. 
If I hear one more taxi horn I will go postal.  Beeping the horn doesn't make this traffic jam move anywhere. 
Alleyways teeming with life in their own corner of the earth nestled between high rise buildings, cramped by urban explosion.
There are a million worlds in China.  And they all have their own street and underground life.
Leah joins us working out on the blue and yellow machines of the exercise park.  I admire her passionate discourse about music education.
Weathered pink Communist Party stars adorn the peaks of apartment buildings another sign of an era disappearing. Guys selling plastic shoes in a myriad of colors and Imitation Coach bags are below.
I am lost, now just look for Lindsey’s colorful attire.  I spot it, with a flood of relief.
The best apartments are in the middle. Penthouses are for the unlucky in the furnace.
My heart pounds as the machine sucks in my card. I am frightened I shall never see it again. I feel the flood of relief as it ever so slowly creeps it's way back to me. Seems like an eternity.
Calligraphy. I don't get it. Two, three and four combine to make one. This character means land that I used to live on but was taken in the fall or maybe spring. Say what?
Margot was right. About everything. 
7000 is the population of your school you say? That is bigger than the town I live in.
There isn't a word big enough to describe how big China is.
Riding up this escalator that is steep and feeling like screaming. Trying not to look down. 
That rickety chair lift you say?  God help us Margy.
Calves are burning. I hear complaining.  You are on the Great Wall. Suck it up.
Hazy sky. Will this trip shorten my life by years after breathing this in for a month?
Yelling in a market. Smells of fish and dirt surround everything.
The salt is bitter and my lips pucker. I did not want to eat the shell.
The man is yelling at me.  Whatever for?  My mind scrambles to identify my mistake.
Tinted windows on middle class status symbols. 
Developments of apartment buildings.  Red roofs of a monopoly game rush to mind. 
People crossing a highway. Is this legal? 
Families lounging on the only grass in the city close to them. The highway serves as recreation space.  Double bonus.
Tangled black wires look like licorice strings.  Electricity buzzes through them.  
Large planted green fields. Narrow roads meander through. People in blue,  biking looking mini from afar.
News from home rocks my secure world. An old friend has lost her son. So close to home.  Our boys are the same age.  My heart is shattered into a million pieces for her. How will I get through this dinner without bawling. Keep swallowing the lump. Leave now. I want to go home. I want to go home.
My refugee students do too.  I think of them in this moment. 
Dirt, rocks, bamboo and metal scaffolding. Blue machinery, talk red and yellow cranes by the thousands. Blue roofs and dirty white walls of temporary housing for workers. Sounds of jackhammers. People digging by hand. Build the new China and hope they will come.
Empty high rises of luxury.
Evergreen China Post trucks bold white calligraphy contrast.
Protection hangs from every rear view mirror. Charms, reds and imperial yellows.
Hot bodies pushing to catch glimpses of history in dirt.
Straightforward watch of the Terracotta Warrior.  Who was he?  The farmer is grouchy, sick of the swarm of tourists I imagine.  
Deliciousness of coffee, ice  cold, light cream and sugar. There is a god.  This is the only coffee I have seen.
Constant activity in the brain, listening, connecting and planning how to use it. Never ending newsfeed.
White, western women and men in Armani, Gucci and Prada adorn billboards and storefront signs enticing Asian buyers. 
Welcome to Shanghai.
Stylish buildings.  The spread of the architect model is incredible.
Two-tone cabs, line green, mint green, blue, and black . The common denominator is gray.  
The pace of that cargo ship is unnerving.  What happens if he needs to stop?  He is going too fast.  
Pink, silver, and blue marks the modern skyline.  Teacher cameras go crazy.
The wait is grueling.  It is time to go.
My feet, I. . . .
Everything will be ok.
Goodbye my friends.  
And then we are half.  Empty feeling of the bus. My friends are gone. 
Canceled flights, waiting to get out.  We are at the mercy of government and military exercises.  
I swear if one more person touches me.  Every fiber of my being wants to run through the space Maine provides for me.  Open.  I close my eyes and think of the silence of the lake I always swim through.  The flight will be long.
Plane flights over 6 hours send me into a time warp.  I really haven’t been flying that long have I? 
Anxiety ridden running for my connection.  
Hello USA.  A lady guard welcomes me with sarcasm and yelling about lines.  Anger wells up in me.  She is a disgraceful welcome home.  Do not fly into New Jersey from abroad.  Or domestic.  Or ever.
My world will never be the same thanks to China.