Now the world is smaller in many ways. We have almost constant communication with people from all over the world. We can watch some American TV on Hulu. We blog to keep people up-to-date on our lives. We live in a large city in China- about 8 million people. We can find a reasonable facsimile of almost anything we want here. We've all heard the about the ex-pat returning to the US, only to find himself standing in the cereal/cheese/potato chip aisle at the local grocery store stunned and overwhelmed by the choices. Or the person who goes into Starbucks to buy a coffee and thinks "This would be one days wages in XXX country." I've heard those things enough that I don't want to be that person. Plus, Starbucks costs about the same in China.
I also don't want to be the person that judges America based on our experience in China. I've worked with enough refugees and immigrants to know that people really want to come to the US and live there. It's the land of the second chance. Faulty, for sure and not above criticism. But I don't want to be a snotty ex-pat.
We have read and heard about a couple of things that I do believe to be true. One is that people are less interested in you and your experiences than you might think! A friend who lived in Austria in the time of snail mail and crackly long distance phone calls told me that she was surprised at who kept up with her and who didn't. People she wasn't sure she would recognize supported them and their work there and people who were their closest friends didn't. We have found that to be true since we've been here. We've been disappointed as several friends have come to China and not contacted us. All were busy and had legitimate reasons but we would have loved to have known they were coming. On the flip side, we get amazing e-mail and messages from many friends far and near and have many friends that have kept in great contact with us.
For our daughter, this is a reality that is particularly true. We left our small college town in the MidWest when she had just finished ninth grade. She has now finished two years at a small, international high school. It's not always been easy for her. She has done service trips to the Philippines and Yunnan. She has seen poverty and orphans and some hard realities. She has changed. She has high hopes to spend time with her friends. Of course, their lives have changed also. They are busy with jobs and school and relationships. We hope she won't be disappointed.
Our two years here (so far) have changed us in deep ways. Some of our experiences have been exotic and interesting. Some have been hard. We are looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family this summer. However, I am also looking forward to just relaxing, going to the library, renting a movie at Redbox, drinking coffee with friends and reading People magazine (if I even know who the people are!). We have an intense nine week schedule. Sadly, Paul will not be with us for seven of the nine weeks! We'll be apart at at the beginning, together for two and then apart for about another month. His work schedule is different than Elisabeth's school schedule and that is the reality of our life right now. We won't be able to see everyone but we hope to be able to see as many as possible.
See many of you in a few weeks!