Mohan Zhang

The places that made me are the places I love

Belle Mead

Central NJ

206 is the main “highway” that runs through these parts. I’ve known four different homes along that road over the years as my family lived out the American Dream in real time.

Becoming American

I think it’s so random that I went to high school in a town that is somewhere between rural and suburban. My entire conception of what it is to be American was basically seeded during those years.

I like to say that if you went to public high school here, you’re definitely American, because the entire American experience is basically an extension of high school. Or perhaps public high school was created in the image of American society?

Either way, I can’t distinguish the direction of the arrow from my vantage point, nor does it matter much, I suppose. I’m American now and that’s all that matters.

The Garden State

New Jersey, however, is not a place I necessarily identify with. If someone asks me where I’m from, I don’t generally say New Jersey. It’s where I went to high school, but frankly, I didn’t see much of New Jersey during those years.

Yet since my parents live there, as I returned over the years, I started seeing more of the state, driving up and down 287 and occasionally the Garden State Parkway. I started seeing our little town develop too over the years in timelapse fashion.

And you know what? I started feeling something. I think it was nostalgia.

Home

I still haven’t fully gotten into the habit of saying “I’m going to parents’ house”—I still say “I’m going home” a lot. I guess it’s even less important for me to make that distinction since the whole point of this site is to show what it means to have many homes.

But to me, this home is family, mom’s cooking, woodlands, and 206.


Photoroll

Recent photos from NJ, by year.

2022