I work with a pretty incredible group of peers. The people that have similar positions to me are in different cities within our company. We see each other in person only several times a year. And I’m always impressed at the camaraderie and fun that we have together. I also super appreciate the focus that each one brings into better supporting our people.
My wife and I have an “on again off again” relationship with running. Currently, we are “on again”. Each Saturday a friend of ours organizes a 5K around our housing complex.
One of the best parts of the 5K is when it is over and we a mini breakfast party. These are a couple of our new friends from this weekly tradition.
Living overseas means constant changes. Friendship is no exception. But it only makes them even more highly valued. This is one of my friends. He also teaches my children in school. I’m glad he’s here.
This hasn’t been most ideal Thanksgiving. With the passing of my mother-in-law, it’s kinda thrown our family out of sorts. JK and Eloise are still in the States spending time with family trying to help with organizing the estate while the rest of came back to China about a week ago.
None-the-less, we’ve made the best of it and have enjoyed our Thanksgivings separately. Honestly, I think between JK and me, we both kinda envy each other. I wish we could be with her and her family for yearly Thanksgiving tradition of heading to her brother’s house. And she wishes she could be here to be a part of our community Thanksgivings meals. On Thursday, our small group had a meal, and then again on Saturday we got to take part in a progressive dinner.
For the progressive dinner, at the first house, there was soup and bread. That’s where I contributed my secret recipe – buying store-bought food. From there we went to the 2nd house where we had chicken (couldn’t get a turkey), sweet potatoes and even cranberry sauce, and more main course items. Finally, we headed to the third house where we had a plethora of desserts. At the end it was a 4 hours well-spent!
We’re right in the middle of the Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is most similarly compared to the West’s Christmas. Just about everything closes up for 2 weeks and people all over China return to their home town to visit with relatives. Children are given red bags of money as presents and everyone eats the traditional Chinese dumplings.
This year we’ve had the pleasure of having our old friends, the Greenes, come and visit us and welcome us back to China during this holiday. Unfortunately for them, we also shared with them the bug that’s been going around and almost each day one of us comes down with this 24 hour virus.
Aside from that, we’ve really enjoyed picking up things pretty much where they left off with our friendship. The glaring difference is that we used to teach them all the secrets to living in China, but now that we’re 4+ years removed from it all, they’re the ones teaching us now! It really just goes to show you the value and importance of building relationships with people while you’re living overseas. With the turnover rate of expats in China, we truly consider ourselves lucky to have friends for this long continuing to live in this country.
But we’re also looking forward to building some new relationships that can be long lasting and helpful in this country. This is why we are here…to give support to those working here to be more effective in the work they are doing. We’re so glad that we’re back in country and able to continue doing this.
Leaving means replacement.
Leaving means moving on.
Leaving means trying to end well.
Leaving means fear.
Leaving is hard.
And then there’re the emotions we’re feeling.
I knew going into this move back overseas that it would be hard. We’ve met some pretty cool people during our latest stint here in the States. We’ve done some pretty cool stuff and worked with some pretty amazing people in work and ministry. I’m sad to be leaving them.
I’ve read a bunch of blog posts about transition (mostly from my friend who writes a ton about this sort of stuff at www.thecultureblend.com). Even my undergrad in Cross-cultural studies 15 years ago prepared me for this!
But what I didn’t think about was how hard this was going to be for our friends and family. I’m not sure what I was expecting, really. Maybe a little bit more excitement about what we’ve been talking about for the last 4 years? Maybe a smile on the face as we talk about moving back?
Instead, I can see that they’re hurt. I can see they’re not prepared for this.
Just today a colleague of mine went on for no less than 15 minutes about how awesome I am. About how I’ll be irreplaceable. About how I could have asked for more money in my job. About how he’s not going to have someone to bounce ideas off of any more. It’s funny that in the midst of these apparent compliments my countenance changed to that of sadness. I literally had to tell him to stop talking.
It was desperation.
It was grief.
When I see the lack of enthusiasm about our move, my heart wants to believe that everyone is being selfish.
That they’re not being supportive.
That they’re turning their backs and moving on.
But I know better. I know it’s quite the opposite. I know they care and I know they’re grieving over the coming changes right alongside us.
Excitement and grief mixed together.
As my aforementioned friend has said, “Leaving is hard. Being left is harder.”
So, instead of focusing on my expectations of how people are going to remember us in this move, I’m going to focus on them. I’m going to know that they are grieving, too. I’m going to make the best of the time we have together and know that they’ve got my back, even if it’s too hard to watch from behind as we board the plane.
About 3 years ago we met the Greenes. We were selected to be their host family for their arrival to Qingdao. I still remember seeing the stress in their faces as they got off the final mode of transportation from their long ride from the US. I tried to comfort them by telling them that staff housing was quite adequate here in Qingdao. We were all surprised when we walked in to their closet of an apartment to discover quite a few problems with the furniture and what-not. We still joke today about my spot on their carpet where I would lay down because there really wasn’t any other place to sit.
We’ve come a long way from that point together. We’ve added three children between the both of us, and spent lots of time together playing Madden and board games, and eating lots of meals together. They no longer need us to function (and haven’t for a while now) in China. They’ve pursued the language and the culture with open arms. We’ve really appreciated their love of China.
There is so much more to say about the Greenes and the blessing they have been in our lives. But to put it consicely, they have been true friends to us in Qingdao. Greenes, we will miss you terribly. I look forward to hanging with you again and finding a special place on your carpet where I can sit.
Notice in the picture Anna is wearing a shirt with the word “Love” on it. She purposely picked out this shirt. When she picked it out, she said, “I want to wear this shirt because I love the Greenes”. Very well put, Anna. Very well put.
Sent from my Windows Mobile® phone.
This past Christmas we got to go back to the States. Of the many areas that we hit, one was to my old stomping grounds (I don’t know where that phrase just came from…sorry). My friend, Rick, who I have been friends with since the first grade , and I were able to get together and play Madden Football. It really felt like we were transported back to the good ole days when we used to play Sega, The Master System and wiffle ball like every single day. I guess the only thing different from when were kids was talking about how cool our kids are…oh, and the graphics on the XBOX are slightly better than the 1987 Sega’s.
Anyway, one of the things he showed me while I was there was a mini-movie where he had a leading role (there were only 3 roles, all of them leading…) I thought it was super cool. Here’s the movie:
Anna Mae is now 4 years old! What an exciting time in all of our lives. Anna is so full of life and happiness. She’s also developing in her memory and emotions. The other day she saved a cookie from school for mommy to eat (a feat in itself to get it home in one piece). Mommy didn’t immediately eat the cookie, and the next day Anna reminded mommy of it by asking, “Did you eat the cookie yet?” When mommy said no, Anna said as she visibly became emotional about it, “But I saved it for you!”
Anna got to have 3 birthday parties!
Her Chinese school threw her a birthday party.
And then we threw her a party with her friends at the house.
If any of you have lived overseas before, you know saying “goodbye” to friends is an annual occurrence. This year is especially rough for us as some of our closest friends are headed back to their home countries or new assignments. Although we’re extremely happy for our friends who are turning a new page in their lives, we’re a little offended they didn’t consider our feelings…
Happy Birthday, Jacquelyn!!!
For Jacquelyn’s birthday, we had a small get together (only 20 people) to celebrate.
Below are the pictures from the party.
The past two years we were in a small group that meet every other Monday. This group was very supportive through our pregnancy and the birth of Anna. We grew spiritually because of this group. When we first started out we were studying the fruits of the spirit, we then moved through the book “Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them” by John Ortberg. Our last meeting with them they planned to study the book of Revelation.
Each week we began with a delicious meal, not forgetting dessert of course. This was usually Jeremy’s and my time to enjoy home cooked western food. Recently we started singing with the kids then send them upstairs to watch a movie or just go wild while we got down to “business.”
Through this group we made some really good friends that we have really been missing since in Qingdao. We did not get to know all the people in our small group very well, when you have 20 people in your “small” group it can be hard. But we really miss meeting with them and fellowship that we had. The people in our group really helped us get through some rough times – we love you guys!!
The hardest part about leaving Beijing was saying goodbye to our friends. We certainly were blessed to have the friends that we did. In the days leading up to our departure from Beijing, we got to take some of our closest friends to Papa John’s. (Yes, that’s right, even Papa John’s has made its way over to China.)
To all our friends in Beijing, we miss you terribly! Please come see us in Qingdao…You’ll love it here.
I can’t say that I really learned anything about the minorities but the park is absolutely beautiful and we had really beautiful weather to enjoy it (along with great company)!
We saw model homes that the people would live in and we had fun picking the ones we would like to live in. There were also people dressed up in their minorities traditional clothes and saw some rituals and dances.
After 7 weeks we had to say good bye to our new friends the Clays. Lisa Clay came and lived in the vacant apartment at the beginning of February to wait for her baby’s arrival. After a week alone her husband Aaron was able to join her. We really enjoyed their company. We had a lot of fun together watching Heroes, eating, playing games and talking.
March 14 handsome Ethan Ezra Clay was born. We were glad to finally meet him, although it meant that our friend’s stay would be quickly coming to an end. A week and a half after Ethan was born the Clays returned to their home in Wuhan, China (it is about a 2 1/2 hour flight away – 1052km/654miles).