Alexandra Sieh
Alexandra Sieh

My stomach was in knots, and not only because this was our second attempt to catch a train out of Pingyao.

Thanks to a misread train ticket (damn military time) we'd been forced to scramble for another night's accommodations before racing to Beijing the next morning on the first train out.

Hard on the nerves, to be sure.

But no, it was an event thousands of miles away that had me riddled with anxiety as we pulled out of Pingyao's train station.

You see, this train was the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 9. At a 14-hour time difference, that put things right at Tuesday evening.

Election Day.

My friend was a wreck. Whenever we had service, she was sifting through news sites to see which states had gone blue. Her sister sent accounts of the latest results. With each message, she slumped further in her seat. "What is happening?" she kept repeating under her breath.

And then I put in my headphones.

I'd been increasingly nervous this election cycle. Despite my friends' optimism, I couldn't shake the feeling we were all in for a big surprise.

A terrible surprise.

So I'd hid from this past election, just as I was hiding from it on this train ride. The journalist in me was horrified by my self-imposed radio silence, but years working at a newspaper had taken their toll on me. Part of the appeal of being halfway around the world was avoiding nightly overdoses of depressing news. I now spent my days reading, "Snoop the Crime Dog" to beautifully innocent children, and that's about as close as I've wanted to get to crime reports.


Advertisement

But when we walked into work, there was no more hiding.

I sat in my classroom on a little, plastic chair, silent. Tears rolled down my face. The worst was happening. While most in America slept, WeChat (China's big messaging app) was in an uproar. Group feeds were filled with Americans' shock and fear. While I sat in my classroom, expats bellowed at TV screens in bars across Beijing. They had gathered to toast to America's first female president and were now rapidly trying to drink it all away.

It was a hard night, followed by a hard week, a hard month. Those from Britain later told me they felt they'd gone through another trauma. Brexit had been terrible and now, well ...

I felt more inclined to commiserate than receive condolences. Americans living here were united — we could all feel sadness and outrage pulsing from across the Pacific. Many wondered what this meant for those of us living abroad. More importantly, what did that mean for those we loved back home?

Lately, I've hesitated to say I'm American. I'm already tired of the postulations about my nation's future from those not educated about the facts nor directly affected by this. I've talked with family and friends, but I pass on the casual chit-chat. None of this feels casual to me.

"Stay in China," folks wrote me, "at least another four years." They're joking, they say, but not really. Admittedly, it's a tempting thought. But whether I'm here or there or in some other country, I'll always be an American.

I've shed my tears and seethed with rage. I've been through it all, just as I know folks stateside have.

For now, I have no answers. Just a resolve to be my strongest, most educated and most compassionate self, and to keep my focus on what can be done, not what I wish happened.

For always, I send all my love, First Class Express, over to all of you.

Follow Alexandra's adventures overseas: coloradodaily.com/columnists. Stalk her: instagram.com/wildeyed_wandering.