Tomorrow morning we are leaving this grand ol' complex that has served as our China home the last 4 years to move across town to a new apartment. How else does one celebrate their final night than by sharing a picture of your face on an advertisement?
Our xiao qu (read: apartment complex) has had a giant banner hanging in our main square area for several months now displaying what a great place this is to live. Apparently, I am one of those reasons since there's me, right smack dab in the middle, showing off all my foreign charm as I wrapped some sticky rice in a leaf to celebrate some holiday whose name I can't quite recall at the moment.
How appropriate that picture is though to sum up our time living here. It was our first summer here four years ago. My hair was short, my China experience even shorter, and I still thought there was a chance that I might run another marathon--in China at that! I was living off a beautiful concoction of exoticism, optimism, and naivete. And this home saw me through all the days following. The hard days of home sickness, cultural confusion, language stress, hopes deferred. The joyful days of chasing our puppy Beans through the "grass" outside, BBQs with friends in our make-shirt backyard, bringing our boys back from Ethiopia to this home, growing into my new China self.
Since our house is trashed and our kitchen is packed away in boxes, we ate out tonight. We walked down our familiar alley to a restaurant Kevin frequents several times a week. As we reached our building entrance after our meal, two women rushed up to us with a stroller. They had apparently chased us down in an effort to meet the foreign family. While this isn't an abnormal occurrence for us, this particular meet n' greet was special. The younger woman, who was out walking with her mother and son, was deaf and was exuberant about meeting us. She held Hudson, stroked my white arms, hugged my big boys, and smiled and gestured with glee that was humbling to me. In a cultural where homogeneity is utmost, being deaf or being disabled in any way is often tantamount to complete ostracism. Having the opportunity to bless a woman (who is probably often ignored or mistreated by the rest of society) so deeply just by letting her hold my baby was so meaningful to me, as it reminded me of what Jesus says about serving the least of these. I do hope that our family has been a blessing to this community as a whole as we were to that one particular woman tonight.
So goodbye, dear little home. Goodbye Electric Company Healthy Bridge (the translation of our xiao qu's name). Thank you for all the memories. Thank you for seeing our family grow. Thank you for the people we've come to know & love in this xiao qu.
Goodbye, across-the-hall neighbors. Thank you for letting me & my children squeeze in your tiny Audi sports car to take us to the hospital when Sam had a seizure.
Goodbye, peeing neighbor upstairs. Even though I can hear you pee through the ceiling in our bedroom, for some strange reason, it makes me laugh instead of grossing me out.
Goodbye shrimp-loving neighbors on the third floor. It has been fun to know exactly what you had for dinner that night based on the odor of my kitchen.
Goodbye, piano player neighbor on the fifth floor. I've loved hearing you plink & plunk away as you practice every night. Keep up the hard work!
Goodbye, pajama man neighbor. I love that you always wear pajamas outside and smile at me in the elevator as if there's nothing strange about that.
Goodbye, Coco, my former student & first floor neighbor. I always love it when you smile at me and call out, "Hello Teacher!"
Goodbye, man who works at the Nutrilife store and lets my children stare at your turtles all afternoon.
Goodbye to all the food vendors in the alley who fed my family countless times when I didn't have it together enough to get a meal on the table. We're sad that there aren't any Hui restaurants near our new place across town. You will be sorely missed!
Goodbye friendly neighbors who all know what floor I live on and push the elevator button for me when my hands are too full of kids & kid paraphernalia to push it myself.
Goodbye to the tai qi club that meets in front of our kitchen window and spills their tai qi music inside at 7 AM. It's always fun to start my day on such a cultural note.
Goodbye to all the concerned nai nais (grandmothers) at the playground. No, I still will not make my baby wear socks in the summer but don't worry about him. I don't think he'll get diarrhea from it. But I have always appreciated your concern for his health.
I hope I have been more to you than the crazy foreign lady who spends a lot on electricity and has a gaggle of children that are all different colors. Because all of you have been so much more to me!