Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Reflective Post: Part 3

Quick catch-up: This is part of three of three installments regarding our family’s first trip back to the states.  (You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.)
So, did he? Did Jamie have to drag me onto the airplane to get me back to China? Although I was the only crying at the airport, no, Jamie did have to coerce me onto the plane. Actually, I was ready to be “home”. Living out of a suitcase for 3 weeks with your children and without a routine is really hard.  I was looking forward to being back in the apartment and getting back to normal, whatever that might be! I will be honest, having our trip to the Philippines dangling in front of me helped a little, too.
The tears at the airport were because I had to say goodbye to my friend. It was so good to see friends and the trip reinforced just how special my friends are to me. It made it even harder to leave. I feel the same way about my family, but we had been used to being at least a few hours from family since we went to college. But, my friends were part of my every day life and had seen me through the ups & downs of being a mother, the challenges that face every married couple, and our evolving identities as we get a little bit older.
Looking back over the trip I had so many emotions. It was good to be back in Illinois, good to be around the familiar, good to know my surroundings and good to know where to find things. It was nice to be in control of my day and to be able to hop into a car without texting a driver to come get me.
I liked the feeling of being “back in my element.” Where I was good at something, whether it be a speech pathologist, the person that could be trusted to plan an event, the mom that knew where to get pictures taken, how to plan a birthday party or simply the person that could make a positive contribution of some sort. As I told the friends from our small group, some days in China I feel like I’m just “sucking air” (which, considering the air quality, is not necessarily a good thing)! I was so new that I felt like I just wasn’t good at anything. I felt as if in every new friendship I was the one doing the taking, asking questions, being needy and not being able to return the favor.
It was great talking to friends and family about our experiences. My favorite question was, “Do you like it there?” and then the surprised look on the person’s face when I said “yes”--and I meant it. I could tell who reads the blog! I don’t expect expect all my friends and family to read the blog, that’s not why I do it. But, it was funny when someone would ask a question and I would think to myself, “If you read my blog post from...., you’d know the answer.” For those who do read the blog, it was nice not to be asked the same questions all the time and to be able to go in more depth about our experiences because the person asking already knew the basics. From the beginning I have had three goals for the blog: 
1)  Provide my daughters with a scrapbook of our time in China. I plan to have the blog posts printed off and made into a book someday (yes, there are websites that do that). I want them to see our memories through their mother’s eyes and to try and spark memories of the little every-day experiences we had.
2)  To give encouragement to the spouses of future expats. I was a bit of a blog stalker before we moved. I just needed confirmation that other moms were doing this and that they were okay. I put “mom blog China” in the Google search engine several times digging for new information.
3)  To keep the grandmas happy. The least I could do after I moved their granddaughters half way around the world was to keep them happy with pictures, explanations of our life and some common ground for them to ask our girls questions about what had been going on in their lives.
But, to be very, very frank, life looked a little predictable there, too. I guess I want the best of both worlds -- a little predictability and a little adventure. Many days I long for the US, but I have no regrets moving to China and I wouldn’t want life any other way.
I like that the Chinese have not yet been caught up in the intense speed of life that has taken over our American culture. I love watching the girlfriends and boyfriends or husbands and wives riding on their E-bikes (electric scooters) with their arms around each other and whispering in each other’s ears. I like watching friends ride their E-bikes side by side in the E-bike lane laughing and talking as they go to and from work. I love, love walking everywhere and being in the hub of things. 
Although LBean’s school day is long and Jamie works very hard, the way our week runs is so great. As a family, we eat almost 16 meals a week together. We all have breakfast together and then Jamie walks LBean to the bus. That would not be a possibility for us in the US. We eat dinner together every night except when Jamie has business dinners. I like that once LBean gets home from school we are home for the evening. We are not running to Scouts, lessons, church activities, or get-togethers.  I know that some families do things in the evenings here, but for the most part, the restricted transportation, the long school days, and the general views of those here don’t support evening activities. Also, the weekends belong to us. We aren't close enough to drive to family, we don’t have meetings to attend, and there are no household improvement to-do lists. We are together all weekend long...which can be a good or a bad thing depending on the weekend.
I love all the cultures that we encounter every day. Our city has a large Spanish, German and South Korean population, but we have friends that are from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Africa, Mexico, Canada, Japan and so many other countries. Coming from a small town this is really awe-inspiring. Most of the people here are tri-lingual: their native language, English and Chinese, it is amazing.
Of course, the travel is such a nice perk. I won’t go into much detail, but part of the international employee benefits package includes travel. For us, it’s two trips a year plus a trip back to the US after we’ve been abroad for a year. Jamie and I always said we were saving our money for travel and now we’re getting a chance to really live it. We are in a community where expats can spout off their trips to Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Dubai, Korea, etc. Not only that, but they can tell you the best places to stay, where to eat and the best shopping deals. When we live so close, there is no reason not to travel!
To sum it up, I’ll steal my friend and fellow expat’s assessment of China. “Do I like China? Sure, China’s okay, but I like my life IN China.”

There's a lot of Christmas and US goodies
in those suitcases!

These suitcases are deceiving, they're not just clothes, but
one has a big box of Bisquick in the middle and the
other two have similarly heavy items buried in the middle.


  1. I'm glad you write a blog for us crazy blog stalkers that are just so intrigued by your interesting life :)

    And I know what you mean when you say you can tell whose has read the blog :)

    After reading about your Christmas adventures, I can't believe you had time to call me. Geesh--I appreciate that more than ever! And I don't care if you in China, I'm still going to ask YOU the questions...I'll be the needy one! And maybe by the time you get back to living in the US, I'll be able to answer some of your questions :)

    1. Sara, I loved chatting with you at Christmas! You can ask questions any time : ) I'm sure that by the time we're back you will have to fill me in on the changes in the area. You keep blogging too, you're not the only blog stalker! Good luck with the move.

  2. You need to consider not just saving your blog for the girls, but putting it in book form. You write so well! I love your blog, Kara. You are teaching us all so much through your experiences. Keep it up!

    1. Thank you! Yes, the plan is to put everything into a book for the girls. I think it will be nice to have a record of our adventures!

  3. Ugh! I am so very jealous of your adventure! Such a wonderful opportunity! You make it look so easy, but I know that you have your days too! Miss you!