Monday, August 15, 2016

The Move (5 Years in the Making)

Nearly a month ago I left a voice message for a friend where I basically said “nothing is happening, but I feel like something could happen.” Little did I know, that very day my husband found out that our family was going to be transferred to our next destination. It’s the move that’s been 5 years in the making…

We’re moving back to the US!

We hope to call this house home in a few months!
It’s been a good run for our family. We will leave China with a deep love for the country and its people, but we are very confident that the timing is right. In a matter of a few weeks we’ve bought a vehicle, put an offer on a home, found a preschool for ChinaBean and a few other details have literally fallen into place. 

Our girls will start school in China and have a proper goodbye with their friends and classmates. We plan on eating lots and lots of fantastic Chinese food and maybe taking in another few sights. I’ll be trying to read up on how to end an oversees assignment well (in between researching washers /dryers and mattresses-such an exciting life we lead).

We don’t yet have our return tickets for the US, but we think that our girls will be trick-or-treating in our new neighborhood in the US this year. We have about 8 weeks left in China and just a few tasks on our to-do list!

Five years ago we had a cultural training class to prepare us for moving to China.  The trainer told us that often times it is harder to repatriate (move back to your passport country) than it is to leave. I remember thinking that I would worry about that later. And, we’ve been told that that ,for every year you live outside of your passport country, it takes 6 months to readjust when you return. If you do the math, that means we’re going to potentially feel out-of-place for the next 2 1/2 years.

For those that will be waiting to receive us when we return, be patient with us and please extend us a huge amount of grace as we try to find a new “normal”. 

 Now excuse me while I go start packing!
The first house we looked at is the
house we put an offer on.

P.S. For the Hamilton musical fans, after Jamie told me that we were moving I had the song “What’d I Miss” running through my head for a few days. Just take out Thomas Jefferson and replace it with “McClintock” and “China” for Paris and I think we’ve got ourselves a hit song!



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

It's Our Chinaversary!

Let’s celebrate?

Somehow we’ve reached the 5-year-mark of living in China.  The traditional gift for a fifth wedding anniversary is wood, so I guess I’ll get Jamie a set of chopsticks to mark our 5th Chinaversary.  Do you think he will be amused?

Facebook has been reminding me of my posts from half-a-decade ago…meeting a stranger (turned friend, she was already living in Suzhou) Stacey at the Chicago airport, having breakfast with Gene Simmons, landing safely in Suzhou and starting our expatriate experience.  This adventure was supposed to last a grand total of 18-24 months and here we are at the 60 month mark.  Funny how that happens!

We have not loved every month (or week, or day) of this experience, but the good has outweighed the hard.  The collection of friends, memories, and experiences has made it so very worth it.

Here we are, chatting on our
Chinaversary...Jamie in China,
the rest of us in the US.
I know my blogging has slowed down to a mere trickle of infrequent posts.  There are several reasons for that, some intentional, some not.  The intentional reasons are to try and be fully present with my girls when they are home, to give myself plenty of time to help our family to settle into our new city and home, and to not place my personal to-do list over the needs of my family.  

The unintentional is that chasing three school-age kiddos around is hard work and my days are full!  The by-product is that by the end of the night I am exhausted and have little energy for anything beyond a Netflix binge.  We’ve also traveled a lot this past year; five trips outside of China (along with those frequent flights to Shanghai for orthodontist appointments).  And finally, we’ve been processing our move last summer and trying to fall in love with our current city and frankly it’s been a challenge.  

Looking ahead, I’m not sure what this next year will bring.  Maybe some changes?  But, in the meantime, our family is sure enjoying our time in the U.S. surrounded by family and friends.  It’s been a good summer!
Exploring the Mark Twain Caves in Hannibal, Missouri

Let’s raise a glass of green tea and toast to the last 5 years.  Cheers!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Name that brand!

Sometimes I am surprised at how powerful advertising can be even to the casual consumer.  Often I don't even have to read Mandarin to know what brand is sitting on the shelves at our local grocery store.  Colors, shapes, and even fonts are enough clues to figure out what I am buying. 

Let's play a game, "Guess the Brand".  Here's round 1!

What brand is this?

Any guesses?
Keep scrolling down for the answer!


How did you do?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

It seems that summer comes to Xi'an early!  The temperatures climbed to the 90's by the end of April.  

Hot weather means we must have water fights, right?  EBean was very excited to finally put her new water gun to the test.

We provided some great entertainment for our local neighbors within the apartment compound.  Many people were still wearing long sleeves and pants, so our girls running around in swimsuits and shooting water at each other was confusing and amusing.  We're the crazy foreigners!

In Suzhou I had rain boots and rain coats to get through the late spring and early summer months, but that won't be necessary here.  It might be due to the effects of the Gobi Desert to the far northwest of Xi'an, but I don't know that for sure.  Hot, dry weather arrives early here - lesson learned.

Just 5 1/2 more weeks of school left and we can really begin the summer weather.  Counting down...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's the Year of the Monkey

Another spring festival has ended and the Year of the Monkey has begun in China.  We just happen to have three monkeys at our house!

Happy New Year from our monkeys to yours!

Each year the has an animal that represents the Chinese Zodiac and they rotate through every 12 years.  And, since I was born in the year of the monkey, this year is my year!  

Apparently people who were born in the year of the monkey are smart, clever, enthusiastic, and innovative.  Yay for me! But, monkeys are also known as being jealous, selfish, cunning and arrogant.  Yikes.  I guess that I work on those things this year.

This year's new year celebrations were a bit different than our time in Suzhou.  There was no big company dinner and Jamie didn't have to give any speeches.  Our girls did have three weeks off of school and we were able to take a vacation outside of China (more on that later).

Now that Christmas travel is done, the Chinese New Year festivities and travel are done, and we all seem to be healthy at the same time (at least at this very moment), so it might be time to finish unpacking our last few boxes and finally hanging up our pictures.  Such an exciting time at our place!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

New Year, New Word

Finally 2016 has arrived.  Apparently I was very eager for the new year as I kept writing 2016 on things in December.  I have written in the past about my lack of goal writing at the beginning of a new year.  I am a reformed Type A, so I have an on-going list of goals and to-do’s, but I have adopted the practice of choosing a word of the year.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I enjoy reading blogs and listening to podcasts.  And, a few years ago, a favorite author of mine introduced the idea of choosing a word at the beginning of each year to guide the goals and decisions of the year.

Embarrassingly I had forgotten my “word” from two years ago, but my friend Megan remembered it for me.  “Steady” was my word for 2014.  I knew we were facing ChinaBean’s third open-heart surgery and I wanted to roll with the stresses of that and the other challenges that come with living overseas.

Last year I settled on “rest”.  I was staying up too late, racing around Suzhou, working, volunteering and trying to soak up what was supposed to be our last 6 months in China.  I knew that I would have to be intentional and protective of my time.  I don’t know that I came out of 2015 more rested, but I was certainly more aware of what I felt like when I had margin in our schedule and the implications of me not being rested.  Our surprising move to Xi’an has changed our schedule drastically and increased the “margin” in our schedule greatly.  Coincidence, I think not.
I seriously considered the word “sleep” for 2016, but a wise friend suggested that linking my word to scripture might be beneficial.  Hmmm, “He makes me lie down in green pastures…”  Instead, I have chosen the word “peace.”  It still allows me to build off of last year’s word by reinforcing that when I am rested, I am certainly more peaceful!

Life, whether overseas or in your home country, isn’t always peaceful.  But when those tough times come, I want to choose peace rather than always being reactive to a stressful or intense situation.  Like jello, I will absorb whatever life throws at me.  Right?!

It seems that 2016 might have several chances for me to practice my word.  We returned to Xi’an after Christmas holiday with an un-repaired apartment.  Tiles ripped up, dust everywhere, furniture in random places…peace.  Jamie returned to the US for a week after only being in Xi’an for barely 7 days…peace.  Jet lag with three kids in a hotel…peace. Peace, peace, peace.  Let’s hope that I don’t have too many opportunities to practice.

“Seek peace & pursue it”  ~ Psalm 34:14

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Great Wall Fun Run

I might be behind on posting this, but as the calendar flips to 2016, I reflect on the highlights of the last year.  The Great Wall Marathon was at the top of my list.  I didn't run the full marathon, or even the half marathon, but the "fun run" provided me with just enough challenge. 

The "fun run" was an 8.5 km race.  The first 5 km was a run up the side of a hill (but let's pretend it was a mountain) to the entrance of the Great Wall where racers climbed up and down a series of 5,100+ uneven steps.  It was amazing! 

I trained on a treadmill on our patio, facing a wall, and trying not to aggravate my plantar fascitis.  Race day was the longest that I have ever run.  Really. Ever in my life.  

The three of us lived in the same apartment compound in Suzhou.
My Italian friend on the right ran the 1/2 marathon, again.
At the Suzhou train station and headed to Beijing!
This gentleman started chatting with us on the Beijing subway.
He had visited one of the US facilities for the company my husband
works for, and his mother was born in Suzhou.
Nike, inspiring us to run our best.
The day before the race, my two friends and I took our rented car (with driving in China for us), to the small village where the start and finish of the race was located.  We walked to the beginning of the course and then down the road we would be running in the morning.  The "hotel" we were staying in had a little restaurant and we dined on some fine Chinese food the night before the race.
The closest I will ever get to running 34 km.

Sporting some national pride before the race.

All smiles before the race.
I took a few pictures during the race.  I am terribly stubborn and competitive (even with myself) and that makes up for my lack of athleticism.  Before I started the race I had decided I would just play it by ear and take it easy.  But, then the race started and the adrenaline began pumping and I decided that, sure, I could run the 5 km up the side of the hill/mountain without stopping.

Some people ahead of me.
And, some people behind me.
And, I did the whole way.  It was awesome! I did pause for a quick photo at the entrance of the Wall.

And, here we go...the 5,100+ steps.

Going down...

What goes down, must come up and up and up.
They call this part the "Goat Pass" for a
very good reason!

I can see the finish line, but can I get there?

We finished!
I wasn't the first and I wasn't the last.  Somewhere right in the middle.

We made it back to the hostel in Beijing
and we found more steps.  Ahhh!

The train ride home was one of the most fun rides I have had.  It's a 5-hour trip from Beijing to Suzhou and we laughed approximately 4.5 hours of the ride.  We were still laughing coming down the escalator at the Suzhou rail station and it echoed through the hall.  I am fairly certain that the driver who picked us up thought that we were inebriated, but I solemnly swear that we were not.  Not even a bit. 

The race was a great moment in 2015 and I'm looking forward to what 2016 will bring.