Friday, July 20, 2012

1 Year Anniversary

Happy 1-year anniversary!  We have survived our first year in China.  Thanks to everyone who have supported us and said that we could do it.  Some days I wasn’t so sure myself! It has been a long time since I have cried about having a China day although I know another will creep up on me someday.
I’m not sure how to sum the first year up, but I completely agree with our cultural trainers assessment that when living abroad the “highs are higher and the lows are lower”.  We have had some amazing experiences during the first year, but in so doing, we have given up some things, too.  My mom has reminded me a few times that it is all a trade-off.  Yes, I can buy some inexpensive pearls (not the ones I’ve given as gifts to friends and family, of course!), but it took me moving my entire family to a foreign county to make that possible.
It’s all a trade-off...
I have an Ayi (housekeeper) that cleans my home, buys my fruit and veggies, and can watch my children.
I have no family that is closer than a cross-Pacific flight to get my children off the bus if I am needed somewhere else or want to visit one daughter’s school while the other is at her school. Some days it takes a heroic effort to go the grocery store (or several stores) looking for one imported or hard-to-find ingredient because I had to schedule the driver, walk 20+ minutes, or take a taxi (or two).  And, it is dirty here, to put it simply.  It takes a lot of work to keep up with the dust, smog and dirt that gets tracked into our apartment.  Doing laundry is almost a full-time job in itself.  The dryer goes up to 200 minutes … I think that gives you an idea of the efficiency!
I have a driver.
I have to schedule everything.  There is no spontaneous hopping into a car to pick up a child from a friend’s house or stopping at a new store on a whim. What’s more is the driver knows everywhere I am going and what I am buying.  Privacy anyone?
My children attend stellar international schools with students from over 40+ countries.
“Their” way is much different than “our” way and there is a lot of catch-up that needs to be done.  Also, it can be very isolating when your daughter is the only student in her class from North or South America.  Because, at recess the children tend to gravitate to children from their own countries so they can play with those kids that speak the same language, understand all of the cultural nuances, etc.  Adults are guilty of this too, because it’s just easier going to the familiar and it’s not necessarily on purpose 
There are great restaurants in town.
It can be really hard to make a “quick and simple” American meal or to make it cheaply.  I have learned to make so many things from scratch: ground sausage (mixed my own seasonings and add it to ground pork), ricotta cheese, yogurt, crescent rolls, pizza crust, bread, cream of chicken soup, buttermilk and a few other things.  Why must all American casseroles require cream of chicken soup or Velveeta?! 
We have traveled to some amazing places in South East Asia.
When we’re at home in Suzhou we work really hard.  This is the hardest Jamie has ever worked and the hours are long. He works a full day at the office and then comes home and puts in a few more hours on the phone in meetings with the US.  When visitors come to town there are business dinners, showing co-workers around town, helping them buy gifts for their wives & families, traveling to suppliers across China, and going back to the US every few months to visit the home office.  The mental work that it takes to live here is easily overlooked, but it really takes a toll on someone.  Trying to think and communicate in a second language, learn the cultural rules and expectations, and navigating a large city can be overwhelming.  And, you can’t escape it!  You can’t tell yourself that tomorrow I’m not going to do those things.  There have been a few times where I think back over the day and realize that it has been good because I haven’t left the house!  Vacations are a nice escape from all of this.
One of the most amazing trade-offs has got to be, although we are miles and miles from family and what is familiar to us, we are living in our third child’s birth country.  How crazy is that?!  Not many adoptive families get to have that experience.  This alone has made it all worthwhile.
So, are the “highs” worth the trade-off of the “lows”? So far! It has been a good first year and I have no regrets.  Here’s to year 2!

Another trade-off, it's inexpensive to go get our toes painted
on a rainy Saturday afternoon!

EBean, so patient and holding still!

LBean likes the massage function
on the pedicure chair!


  1. Congrats on surviving the first year, Kara. I admire you for taking the leap. Best wishes for a great second year!

    Kim Waguespack

    1. Thanks Kim! I hope all is well with you.