Friday, March 20, 2015

Avoiding Bitterness: Why Not Knowing is Okay

“So, you’re moving this summer, right? You’re moving back to the US?”

The question that keeps getting asked.  A lot. Well, actually we don’t know.  

“You mean Jamie doesn’t have a job?!”

Well, Jamie’s role during his time in China was to train up a Chinese national to take his position.  The time has come for the national to take over and we are excited about this!

“Can’t he just go back to the job he left in the US?”

Jamie’s company encourages their employees to move roles/positions/jobs every 3-5 years.  It is necessary for career development and learning new skills.  Jamie’s skills have grown, changed and evolved while we’ve been in China and a different position will be a better fit (just like if he would have been in a role for 4 years in the US).

“Is there a job for him?”

Well, in a large company it is really about timing.  What other people are also looking for their next position within the company and what positions will be available when we think we'll be moving?   This is the point that we’re at, looking at what might become available in the next 6 months.

“Don’t you want to move back to the US?”

Sure, that would be great.  Family, friends, cheese, driving and Target are all great things about the US.

“Don’t you want to have another expat assignment?”

Sure, that would also be great.  We love to travel and there are so many more places to see.  The experiences that our girls are having are shaping their world-view in such a positive manner.

“Aren’t you freaking out?”

Not yet.  I had tea with a friend last week and she mentioned that there were about 102 days between last Friday and their projected move day (at the end of the school year), which is potentially our move date.  She was meeting with the relocation people in the afternoon to start assessing their belongings and what it would take to move everything back to the US.  One hundred and two days is not long at all!

The conversation with my friend put me in a very reflective mood.  I started remembering all the feelings that I had before we moved to China and one of the emotions I had was bitterness.  I was excited to move, I was ready for an adventure, I was sad to leave family & friends, but our little family of four wanted to go.  We were choosing this.  However, as the process got started, emails started rolling in, the continuous stream of calls with lawyers, accountants, packers, etc. I developed a lot of bitterness.  I didn’t want to spend my last 8 weeks feeling harassed by my to-do list.  I had the distinct feeling that the only thing keeping me from breezily sailing through this move was me.  Me not willingly to stay up all hours of the night filling out forms, responding to emails, organizing our things, and marching through the to-do’s.  But, I couldn’t escape it and those things had to be done.

I wanted to spend the time leading up to the move savoring time with family, enjoying one more round of hugs and laughs with my closest girl friends and giving my girls an extra big dose of Americana to sustain us through the first 6 months of our move.

So for now, from my perspective, if we don’t know where we’re going, then I can’t have a moving to-do list.  Frankly, if an international move gets crammed into 30 days, then fine by me because it will be crazy and exhausting no matter how many days I am given.

I’m avoiding bitterness at all costs.  Instead, you can find me soaking up all things Suzhou and China and enjoying what time we have left here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

More Evidence that It’s a Small World

If you're a faithful reader (thanks mom!) you might remember few posts about small the world can really feel.  Let me think back…

The time we met friends of my parents at an international meeting in Korea.  My parents' friends next stop was Shanghai.  They were meeting in-laws of one of their own children.  However, the in-laws they were meeting didn’t actually live in Shanghai, they lived in Suzhou.  Hmmm, I’ve heard of that place before!  A few years have passed since that realization and it’s fun to chuckle about it because the people they were visiting have children LBean & EBean’s ages and our kids all go to school together.

Another reminder was just this past fall when our taxi driver on the island of Borneo had not only been to the US, but had lived in souther Illinois (my home state) for over a year.  He had attended flight school at Southern Illinois University.

Later int the fall we were in line to board our flight back to Shanghai from southern China and the father behind us nudged his son.  He said “Did you tell them?” and his son shook his head shyly.  Turns out that they had stayed at the same resort as us in Borneo 6 weeks earlier and they remembered us.  (So much for being anonymous while on vacation.  My first thoughts were: 1) Had I been yelling at my kids and 2) What had I been wearing?!)

In January I was scanning through a Suzhou friend’s FB page.  I was helping put together a photo book for her going away party and needed to find some contact information for her friends.  As I was scrolling through her friends list it told me if some of my Facebook friends were friends with her Facebook friends (did you catch that?).  Most of the friend connections were easy to figure out…people from church, Girl Scouts, housing compounds and other Suzhou-related ties.  But then, there were at least 4 or 5 connections that had nothing to do with Suzhou at all.  A dear friend of Jamie’s from college (a study buddy that we have camped with on many Labor Day camping trips), one of my good friends from college (we might have passed the time in class by trying to complete the daily crossword puzzle in the Daily Illini), and someone I know only via a Facebook introduction (but she also lives in SE Asia).  It was fun to keep discovering the connections.  

ChinaBean "demonstrating" some
of my physical therapy exercises
Most recently I started seeing a doctor to address some pain in my foot from running.  During our first meeting we started chatting and as it turns out, he is also originally from central Illinois (my home state in the US).  We grew up within hours of each other.  Now I can pretend to be very particular about my health care and say that I will only go see a doctor from my home state.  You can do that, even in China!

She is having way too much fun with this!

Maybe instead of seven degrees of Kevin Bacon, it should be the seven degrees of Suzhou?