Today is our last day in our China home. We're taking a morning train to Beijing on Saturday and then will fly out on Monday evening. It's weird to think that we've been here for three years already. In some ways, it seems like the time has passed really quickly. But then I think back to the specifics of everything that has transpired over the past three years and how much we have changed through the course of it, and it doesn't seem quick at all. We've grown up a lot since being here. Becoming parents obviously does that to a person but having to reorient your life in the Orient also has a way of zapping a triple-shot of maturity into your blood stream.
I remember the days when leaving the house was way stressful because people would speak Chinese to me and I didn't understand a single word. Not even one.
I remember getting into a taxi during one of the early days having just learned how to say "airport" and considering making a run for it.
I remember the days when paying the electricity bill required so much from me that I pretty much had to take a nap upon returning home.
I remember coming to the realization that long-distance running doesn't really fit into my life here.
I remember being lonely beyond belief because it seemed like no one really understood me anymore.
I remember suffering loss over the past three years that I had never experienced before.
But then language came (ok, well it didn't just come. I worked my tail of at it!). Friends came. The ability to connect with people beyond my culture & life stage came. And then life made sense again.
So I'm leaving China now with a somewhat heavy heart. Sure, we're looking forward to family, friends, Jason's Deli, Blue Bell, and the convenience of American life. But when I think of China life now, I don't think of the difficulties that it often includes. I think of the people & places that I love here.
Friends like this who welcomed Kevin into their home almost every week since we arrived here and who patiently helped him improve his Chinese. And who gave our kids their first "hong bao," which is a red envelope with money inside that children receive during Spring Festival.
Friends like this who used to bless me by helping me out around the house but now bless me by loving on my boys and giving me an crate of dozens of apples shortly before I leave the country. (Fear not...we managed to eat them all!)
Friends like this who make my babies smile.
Friends like this whose enthusiasm & animation about life are infectious and who can replicate American pizza pretty darn well.
And friends like this who will sit on my couch and really share their life with me. It's an amazing thing when hearts can truly connect across culture & language.
We've spent the past several weeks saying goodbye to all the people that have made the past three years so special for us. We've also been busy packing and getting things ready for our departure. Which means that there have been a couple of incidents while a distracted mama was supposed to be on watch...
Like when Micah ate a blue marker. Or when I was trying to vacuum but the boys kept licking the vacuum cleaner and pressing the off button (with their hands, not their tongues). To curb my frustration, I took a break and gave them vacuum cleaner hickeys on their feet & hands for a while. There's nothing like baby smiles that make frustration vanish.
And of course sorting & organizing three years of stuff always lends itself to amazing superhero costumes.
"Goodbye" in Chinese literally translates "to see again." So as we say goodbye to our China home for these next six months, we are expectant and hopeful that we will indeed again enjoy the life that we've built here.