Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No More Asian Life

In looking back at my last posts, I wasn't sure if I made it clear that I won't be using this blog anymore. If you have been following me and want to continue following me, you can start following my new blog: The View From Here. Thanks for being faithful readers!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

New blog address

I just started posting at my new blog. Please come follow me there!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Goodbye Asian Life

Last night we were blessed by all our friends and co-workers coming together to share memories and encouraging words with us. It was fun to see people, new and old, from our time here. A few girls we worked with when we first arrived in 1999 even made it! It was amazing to hear people get up and say, "I've known you for 8 . . . 10 . . . 12 years." There's a lot of history with these people.

And there's a lot of history in Asia. As my final post for My Asian Life before I change my blog, I thought I'd throw out some of the memories that come to mind:

dormitory life for the first three months
the carpet in our first place that was supposed to be tan, but was gray when it came. We were told, "This is what we had at the factory."
Hearing people talk about our "incredibly white" child in stereo whenever we took him outside
The AC unit being installed outside our 20th floor window - they wrapped a rope around the waist of the guy leaning out and gave Erik the end to hold
Favorite restaurants and play areas, and the days we would show up to them and find them a pile of rubble, "Sorry kids, Fundazzle's gone."
Struggling in language class
Riding on the back of Erik's bike side saddle like the locals
Frequently changing the purpose of rooms in our house, "Ok, today I want to make our room Ethan's room and make the office our bedroom."
Paying someone 2 mao to watch my bike at the grocery store
Sweet times with Chinese friends 
Dan Higgins licking off Ethan's sucker that fell in a mud puddle
Holidays with all our co-workers
Going to IKEA as a retreat from the culture (back when no one went there)
Seeing coal dust on the inside of our window sill in the winter
Our last year the first time when an American family lived next door and our children treated them as one apartment, running back and forth

Daily swims at our apartment complex in Singapore
BBQs at the end of the courtyard
Runs in the morning that got me so sweaty I could wring out my shirt
Wet markets
The Singapore Zoo
Waiting out sudden thunderstorms
31A Merryn Road, where we had Bible study and did life with our small group
Thursday morning women's time at IBC
Our makeshift homeschool co-op Pirate class
Hours and hours with my friend Martha while we watched our kids do gymnastics and all kinds of other activities
Catching the bus, the MRT - Singapore's amazing public transport systems
Mustafa Centre!
The Jurong Water Park - one of the few places in Singapore that was inexpensive!
Driving on the other side of the road
Hanging with the Wilsons
the great library system

Running along the canal
The giant urn in our living room that we managed to wrestle outside
Not seeing the kids all day because they were out playing in the complex
Walking next door to the Higgins when the kids were sleeping
Road trips with the Fords
The hardest goodbye ever - seeing the Higgins and the Fords leave in the same month
Renovating our TTY place
co-op kids every Thursday
Eating street food again
Having a jiaozi guy and an egg guy and a fruit lady
Capture the Flag every day for months
Driving the back roads of China
Hearing my kids speak Chinese and seeing our floor littered with character flash cards
Finding Scout
Eating with friends on our porch

Asia has been good to us, and though we are leaving our Asian life, I know that we are forever changed because of our time here.

I'll be changing my blog URL soon. Hopefully my posts will all transfer over and you will be redirected to the new one. Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

14419 Nell Drive

 Last week was our 15th anniversary, so Erik bought me a house in Orlando.

It's unusual in many ways. In fact, at first it was so unusual that I didn't really want it. The former owners custom designed it in what we'll call an "eccentric" way, which sounds better than what I called it before which was, "designed by drunk people." The upside of this eccentricity is that it's one of a kind! Hard to find anywhere, but especially in Orlando where housing developments abound.

Aside from the layout, it's unusual because you can't reach out your window and touch your neighbor's house like most houses in Orlando. In fact, we can only really see the neighbor to our west. In the back we have a fence and trees blocking our view of anyone, and to the east, as you can see, there's an acre of trees. Yes, our acre! Hello future guest house (in the way distant future when we win the lottery and have the money to build it). In the meantime, you can stay in the guest room, or pitch a tent if you really want to stay outside.

When I look at this house now, I see lots and lots of potential, and if you know how much I love to decorate, you know I'm like a kid looking in the window of a candy store right now.

Here's what else we love/are looking forward to about it:

It comes with deer! Ok, not ours but how sweet is that? (until it eats my garden)

The dining room has wood floors and I'm picturing a wall treatment below that chair rail

A three+ car garage. What??

Hello cabinet space as I've never had before

This might be my favorite part - the second floor deck off the master bedroom

Fire pit! Or, rather, was and will be. Someone stole the bricks, but we'll replace them and make it even better!

A master bedroom that is ridonkulously huge

This is part of the "unusual" - this is the front of the house, which faces the neighbor. I have plans for it, starting with tearing down that fence.

The joke's on us - Erik and I hate houses that scream "Welcome to our garage" and ours appears to be the poster child for it. But what a nice garage it is.

Second favorite part - HUGE porch off the living room. We want to screen this in.

I'm picturing this landscaped and flanked by our new stone lamps

And did we mention the pool?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Transition in Word Pictures

I like to think about and explain my life in word pictures. For example, I would say that driving on the streets of China is like a constant game of Frogger, a higher level where there are fewer rules about what the cars on the road have to do. I think I reached a new level today, and possibly gained some gray hair from it.

So in this transition process, I find myself coming up with frequent new images to put into words how this all feels. Here are a few of them that capture life right now:

Saying these goodbyes is like pulling a bandaid off a hairy part of your body (this is more vivid if you are an extremely hairy person. I am not, but it still works for me). Each goodbye is a little pull. Is it better to do it slowly or all at once and get the pain over? This whole week feels like I have the edge in hand, waiting for the rip.

This summer has felt like being steamrolled very, very slowly. The strain of house hunting from afar, wrapping up our affairs, purging and sorting and selling and packing, trying to balance logistical necessities and precious time with people - it's all gone on for months. Many times we've looked at each other and said, "Can we just go now? Are we done with the hard stuff yet?" Not because we want to go, but because it's hard to be under a steam roller for that long.

This last week, now that our shipment is gone, we have been spending as much time as possible with people. This is good, but my introvertedness is being tested (steam rollered, if you will). Each night I collapse into bed, wanting just a day free to myself, but knowing I will wake up and do it all again. I feel like a squirrel storing up for the winter - gorging myself now so I can feed off it later.

But most of all, it all feels like pregnancy. We can see this next season and it looks like it will be good and exciting and probably also hard and unknown, but the only way to it is through an increasingly uncomfortable and finally painful process. As the due date approaches, we try to remember to breathe and not take it out on those around us. There's life on the other side, we know.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


There's a concept in Chinese language and culture that has no clear translation in English. It's the term "guanxi." It roughly means, "relationship" or "connection" but in reality it is much more.

Here, it's important to have guanxi with others. You can build guanxi, get guanxi, lose guanxi, use guanxi. When you have guanxi with someone, they are more likely to do things for you. It's kind of like building rapport with people that you can draw on later.

My husband is the Guanxi King. Really, it's like his superpower. Close to a Jedi mind trick, but not quite. Take a guy who is naturally easy going, friendly, and deferential, but who also values getting other people to do the little things he'd rather not do, and you have a guy who is unstoppable in this country. People who have just met him suddenly like him and are willing to do anything for him. It's amazing to watch. Those inflexible rules we so often encounter here are bent in the presence of the Guanxi King.

I'm not sure how this guanxi power will translate in America. We'll see. All I know is that it's been helpful here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just a Little Extra Money

We're finding out (as if we didn't already know) that in China, money will get you everywhere.

Last Thursday, it got Erik a fast pass through the exit health exam for Scout. For the base fee, he would have had to go back two more times and do all the paperwork himself. For 100Y extra, he only had to go back once and do the paperwork. For 250Y, he only had to go once, they did the paperwork, he got a guide to take him to all the checkpoints (including that cotton pickin' microchip) and they sent the results to us by messenger the next day. Yes, I'll take option 3 for 250Y please Alex. Best 250Y we've ever spent! So that was an unexpectedly easy moment.

This morning, I received the invoice from the cargo company that is handling Scout's excessively early (7:30 am for a 4:25 pm flight??) departure from China. In the place of "airline fee" I saw the number 11,521Y, putting our grand total over 15,000Y once he threw in his cargo processing fee. $2,000+ to ship our dog back to the States? Dude, she's not made of gold!

I've held up pretty well through all of this transition, but this pushed me over the edge because I was sure that all manner of reasoning would not get that fee back down to what it should be. Basically, they were calculating her weight based on the size of the enormous crate we had to buy for her according to airline regulations and decided together they would weigh 101 pounds. Yeah, they weigh 30 pounds. I was prepared for a fight, but when I contested the fee, I got a prompt email that said, "Ok, you can pay 4,937Y."

I'm sorry, where am I again? Is this China? This never happens! Oh wait, it is China because then we saw he added 1,000Y onto HIS fee because he had to, and we quote, "have a profit." Friends, I believe what we have here is a case of someone thinking the "rich" foreigners will never look at the invoice, so why not ask a little extra? But when it turns out that said foreigner who calls (Erik, not me - I hate phone calls) has stellar Chinese and has to pay this fee himself (instead of his company paying), he finds another way to make a little money.

So either we offer it up front or they take it from us. Either way, money moves the world around here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How We're Spending Our Days

A giant garage sale, the sound of packing tape becoming like nails on a chalkboard, the kids running off almost daily to continuing filming a movie with their friends, checking the weather in Minnesota for September, midnight phone calls to the loan company in the States, one more order from Tao Bao, catching up with a friend I haven't seen in a year over a foot massage, a long, actually cold, walk in the morning around the park, homeschool curriculum purchases, dinner with old friends, taking breaks with episodes of Suits, rethinking what we really need in those 6 suitcases we can take back, disassembling thousands of Lego pieces, negotiating one last Build a Bear party with friends, using up the oatmeal, caramel and chocolate chips in a stellar dessert, finding time for a family photo, the more frequent flow of tears . . .

This is how we've been spending our last days here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Life Goes On

Do you ever wonder if everyone's getting together without you?

In a few weeks, I know they will be, because I will be gone. One of the weird by-products of transition is in full force for me these days; the realization that life will go on without us.

Wow, when I write it that way, it sounds really egocentric, which is really not my intention. I do realize that life goes on in lots of places without us and the people are perfectly happy and content. I imagine most people in China will continue this way as well, though it's comforting to know that for a few people, there will be a time of sadness.

No, what I mean is that I am aware of the fact that we will no longer be a part of their lives the way we are now, and I want to be.

I am reminded when I'm handed a bulletin for the fall activities and I politely decline, when the co-op schedule appears in my inbox and I don't even look at it, when I hear people talking about the race in October, the conference in January, I know that we will miss them all. Just today I told a friend that she really should get out to a local park in the fall because it's lovely. She can go. I can't.

Life goes on. Our friends must make plans. And we will be making plans without them, elsewhere.

But it's good to think back on all the days we've had together. (now the Cheers theme song jumps into my head). It's also good to know that we will be missed in all those future moments, just as we will miss being here.

What else have I been missing?

I have a never ending hair debate going in this lifetime, mostly due to the fact that God saw fit to give me the hairline of Dracula and the half-curl of someone who went to sleep immediately after showering. Generally speaking I vacillate between long and short, bangs or no bangs. Right now I am in the short/no bangs phase but am contemplating long with bangs. Yes, I realize I am not one of those Barbies whose hair you can pump to make suddenly longer (but wouldn't that be awesome?). But I have a haircut in a few weeks and I need to know where I'm going with this.

Personally, I think I look better with short hair, but my husband likes it long. When I grow my hair out, it doesn't look good without bangs. But I don't ever feel like bangs looks very good on me. I think they make me look 12, and not in a good way. So why not keep it short? Well, my crazy half curl goes nuts in humid weather (hello, future Orlando home) which makes short, meant to be straight, hairstyles maddening. I'd rather let it do what it wants to do.

While pondering this (yes, I have hair pondering times) I realized something. In the past 13 years, I have mostly either a) had my hair cut by Chinese men who are baffled by my God-given western hair, b) cut my bangs myself, or c) just let my hair not be cut at all for way longer than even the best hairstyle can withstand. Do you know what this means people?? I think it means I've had 13 years of generally bad hair. 

So I'm filled with this new and sudden hope that I can run these hair ponderings by someone who knows what to do with me. She could give me good looking bangs! Or tell me that I should never, ever wear them. Who knows? Maybe all this time it wasn't me - it was just not having someone who knew what they were doing with my hair (and I put myself in that category).

It's leaving me wondering what else I've missed all these years. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Fine Line

Friday morning I realized that we had no water in our kitchen. I assumed that there was a notice at the bottom of my building warning me of this inconvenience, but they tend to post them above my hobbit eye level, so I didn't see it. And also, they're in Chinese so I can only read a fraction of them. Regardless, it was frustrating for the next 24 hours until they turned it back on.

Recently a friend of mine took an online stress test, and part of it required her to answer questions about this kind of thing. It gave a list of potential stressors from living cross-culturally, and asked her, "On a scale of 'not at all' to 'crazy', how much does this affect you?" (ok, maybe I took some liberty with the scale, but you get the idea). It was things that seem simple like, "I can't get X product here" or "I have to deal with government red tape" or "my water or electricity is unreliable." My friend realized that while few of them affected her greatly, the fact that most of the affected her in small ways added up to a lot.

So what do we do with these things? I've been wondering about this lately. And not just the inconveniences, but the other things we've given up living here. I don't often dwell on them, but we have missed a lot being here - birthdays, holidays, experiences.

We're told to look on the bright side, count our blessings, not complain, say "oh but it could be so much worse," compare our lot with others less fortunate and then close the box on the hard things.

I feel like I'm realizing that there's a fine line in dealing with these things. True, it's important to be thankful and full of faith, to realize that in spite of loss there has been great gain, that the difficulties have proven fodder for growth. All true.

But what about acknowledging what these things are doing to our hearts? Where is the place for saying, "This is really hard. It wears on me. I miss this. I long for that." Where is the place for our hearts to express the pain, the drain? Not so that we wallow and have little pity parties, but that we are honest and honor what we feel. To give ourselves the space to feel the reality and let God meet us there.

I think about Jesus in the garden. His was an honest, raw heart that said, "I'd really rather not." Was he complaining? No. He was just being real. He gave Himself the space to acknowledge his true feelings. And then he went and did what was needed.

So I guess my challenge is to be like Jesus - to go before God with my whole heart, not one that is ignorant or blind to the difficulties of life. I can lay all my heart before Him and know that in Him I can find comfort, peace, and strength.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Feelings about The Move

When we ask our kids, "How are you feeling about the move?" their most common response these days is an exasperated, "Stop ASKING me that!"

We might be asking too often.

It's all part of trying to keep our finger on the heartbeat of this transition. While our kids don't necessarily like to produce a response to this question when we ask, there are plenty of other times when they volunteer the information. It comes in random comments like Megan saying, "Mom, this is the first move I've done where I'm going to be sad." (the others she either doesn't remember or we were moving to places where we already had lots of close friends and weren't leaving any behind), or Ethan telling me, "In the morning when I wake up, I'm excited to move to America, but in the afternoon when I play with my friends, I'm sad."

So how is mama feeling about the move? (it's ok - I'm not tired of the question yet!)

Most days I'm ready. It feels like the right timing for us to go. We've been doing a lot of "last time to this place" trips around town and while I thought I'd be sad, instead I'm just filled with happy memories of them. It's a sense of "we came for such a time as this" but that time is done and it's time for new memories in new places.

I'm finding great satisfaction in sorting through and purging our stuff. I like knowing that we are stripping down to what we really need and use, and are able to bless others by giving them the rest. I'm thrilled that it only costs a little more to have people pack for us so I don't have to spend my last two weeks doing that.

I'm excited for things like family, libraries, Minnesota in the fall, water from the tap, letting the dog run in the yard, our future home, shopping in English (no more wasting time trying to read labels in another language!).

I'm a little fearful about leaving the role of expatriate. It's one I've had for 13 years and through several moves it's stayed with me. I'm afraid people in the U.S. will think I'm "home" and all is well, and not be able to understand the reverse culture shock that is inevitable. 

And I'm sad to leave. I hate that I will have to say goodbye to my friends here because they are great friends who love me well. I could try to placate myself with the knowledge that we can stay in touch so easily by many means, but the truth is that they have part of my heart. I am deeply blessed which makes it devastating to leave them.

So that's a whole salad bar of emotions for you. Feel free to ask me in another week or two - there will probably be even more.

Just don't ask the kids. :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Project 365 July

Day 1 - postal delivery bikes

Day 2 - do you buy this much rice at once?

Day 3 - oops

Day 4 - Independence celebrated with sugar

Day 5 - messing around with my camera

Day 6 - why, thank you!

Day 7 - dinner on the street

Day 8 - happy birthday Erik! (four days early)

Day 12 - taking their older relatives out for a walk

Day 13 - trying to get out of the heat

Day 14 - enjoying the shade

Day 15 - by the light of the iPad

Day 16 - I love her hair!

Day 17 - um . . . yeah I was just kind of desperate to get a picture this day

Day 18 - swimming fun

Day 19 - do I take too many pictures of these? Maybe

Day 20 - photographer in training

Day 21 - cutie patootie

Day 22 - the rains are coming

Day 23 - carefree

Day 24 - these old people sit on these benches each night

Day 25 - time capsule

Day 26 - Our own Olympic opening ceremony

Day 27 - Ayis with the children they watch

Day 28 - buckets

Day 29 - hard at work

Day 30 - umbrellas in a dormitory

Day 31 - cozy couple

Monday, July 30, 2012

You Can't Take It With You . . . Unless There's Some Room in Your Container

What do you do when you find out you aren't close to filling your 40 foot container but there's no way you could reduce it to a 20 foot? Why you make the most of it of course! And how do you do this? Well, if you're us (and we are) you think of anything you might possibly need on Tao Bao before you go. When you realize that this will take up about 2 cubic feet of space because let's face it, you're just buying computer cables and travel slip covers for your shoes, you look toward bigger things.You look for furniture.

Now let me add the caveat that our children truly do need new furniture because we're leaving their old stuff behind. We thought about just waiting until we get there but everyone who has gone before us has lamented NOT getting more while they were here. So it only seems smart. (ok maybe smart and a few other things, but mostly smart).

My first attempt was to go to a place a friend of mine recommended that makes furniture. They were happy to make what we needed within our budgeted time, but when she texted me later with her quote, it was obvious they wouldn't do it within our budgeted money. Oy!

In the past, we went to a furniture place out in the boonies and bought a few pieces that we love from a great couple. Since then they have moved their warehouse twice, once in the past two weeks, so we had mostly given up hope that they could help us. We thought we'd give it one more try though and emailed them pictures of what we wanted made. To our great surprise, they emailed back and invited us out last Friday. And hope was restored (cue the peasants dancing).

After an hour long drive to a new part of the boonies, we found them. We were able to order 8 pieces of furniture for a third of the price that the other place quoted us, so we upped our joyful dancing. Not only that, it's just ridiculously cool to walk through their warehouse, take pictures, and dream about how you could possibly (and simply must) incorporate an antique pair of Chinese doors into your new Florida home.

Making It Last

I think I just bought my last bottle of syrup in China. I'm guessing my shampoo supply will be just enough. Unfortunately, I'm out of flax seed, so how much will I need for 5 weeks?

These are the thoughts I have these days. For some reason I have this goal to leave the country without either running out of essential things or leaving excess amounts behind (the former being obviously the greater half of the goal). It's strange to think about seeing the rest of my Asian life here in measures of shampoo, syrup and flax seed, but in some way it helps me know that it's real.

Ok, I need to go order some flax.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Coming Storm

When we lived in Singapore, we could often see storm clouds coming from a long way off, and we knew that before long we would hear the onslaught of rain pounding against our windows.

There's a storm coming for us here too, and I don't mean the one currently dumping buckets of polluted water on our streets. The one I'm talking about has been a long way off for awhile, but I can see it on the horizon. I see the sky darkening, see the storm clouds rolling toward us. I feel the wind picking up and occasional droplets on my face. The storm is coming.

It's a storm of transition, of saying goodbye to people who are like family to us, to places that have been home for 13 years, to a culture that is not our own but which is what we know. It's a storm of knowing that this time we aren't coming back and that we will have to navigate the other side not as visitors but as citizens again. It's a storm of tears, adjustment, goodbyes, new experiences, old memories.

I'm tempted to run down into the storm cellar and hide out while the storm passes. Transition strikes me in odd moments when I am unprepared and sometimes unwilling to enter in, like when I realize, "this is the last time I'll see this person" and I thought I had more time.

I am trying to tell myself to be ok with those off guard moments. Truly that's what I want to be - off my guard. I want to get caught in the rain, so to speak, where my heart will be honest, raw, true. I know the real strength lies in bearing the storm, being willing to let my heart be broken, not in putting on a brave face and telling myself, "It's ok."

So in my mind Erik and I wrap our arms around the kids and assume a stance that will lean us into the wind when it comes. We'll stand together and hold each other in it, not because we are gluttons for pain, but we know that to keep our hearts open for good things we must keep them open to all of life, including the painful parts. And as one of my friends said the other day, "The sorrow is so great because it's been so good." And I want to celebrate that by acknowledging it.

And sometimes, when the storm gets to be too much, I know that my Savior will be close by, my shelter, my haven, my resting place, right in the middle of it all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What It Takes

If I had known what it would take to get a dog back to the States a year ago, we would have told the kids, "We're waiting till the U.S. to get a dog."

But here we are with a dog we don't want to leave behind because really, could you resist this kind of cuteness?

No, no one could unless they were blind, or heartless, or a robot. So we press on. When all is said and done, this is what we know (at this point, but I am fully prepared for there to be more rigamarole, or at least more money) will have to happen to get her there:

1. My friend Laura takes a collection of Scout's things (bed, food, toys, treats) back to the U.S. with her in early August to give to my parents

2. A health check at one particular clinic in town within 7 days prior to departure where they will unnecessarily microchip our dog (see previous blog post).

3. We take the results of the health check to another clinic in town where they give us some official certificate that proves our dog is healthy. And microchipped. There is a 100% likelihood that this will involve a red stamp of some kind because that's how China rolls.

4. August 30th, 3 days before our departure, we take Scout to the airport nine hours before her 4:10 pm flight so that she can go through customs. It's unclear why it takes this long. Honestly, I'm not at all sure it isn't a scam to grab a few more of our hard earned kuai before we leave. United in the U.S. was completely unaware that this is required on this end. They are also unaware that this process cannot happen on a Sunday, which is why she's flying earlier than us. This would have been SUPER helpful information when we bought our tickets for a Sunday flight.

5. 4:25 pm she lands in Chicago, where my FABULOUS brother and sister-in-law have graciously agreed to come from Milwaukee meet her. The other option was to have her fly all the way to Minneapolis, which would have required a 6 hour layover in Chicago and then a midnight landing. Then my poor parents would have had to pick her up and drive her home. 

6. Scout tries to get over her traumatic experience with the help of said items from #1, adjust to a 13 hour time change, learn what life is like on the 1st floor where, "outside" is just on the other side of a door and not 12 floors down, and wonder where her people are for 3 days.

7. The next day my brother drives Scout halfway to Rochester while my parents bring his dog whom he left with them two days before (because we all thought it might be a bit much for my brother and his wife to have both dogs, especially since their dog would probably freak our dog out or our dog will be doing enough freaking out as it is) and they do a dog swap in the Dells. Scout continues to wonder who these kind people are, and where are HER people?!?  

8. Oh and did I mention at this point this will run is about $1,300 USD? Thank God she only cost $9 in the first place.

Resistance is futile

One of my greatest cultural frustrations in Asia is my American need to know the whys behind a rule. Really, I'm a rule follower, but I'd really like to know the reasons behind the rule. If I know them, I'll (generally) follow.

But Asia does not expect to be questioned, and therefore the question "Why?" is rarely answered with satisfaction. Whenever I come up against seemingly illogical requirements, I feel like the people must feel in Star Trek who are approached by the Borg, "We are Borg Asia. Prepare to be assimilated. Resistance is futile." Do not question. Just obey. Regardless of the ridiculousness of the rule.

Yet, futile though it is, I cannot help but still ask, "Why?" And Asia answers, "It's the rule." But I still ask. Sigh.

So when I was told that our dog must be microchipped days before leaving China, even though the U.S. does not require microchipping, I couldn't resist asking the cargo people, "Why?"

I had a vain hope that, because Jade from Panda cargo has been exceedingly responsive and helpful (unlike Grace from United who sounds less and less happy each time I call, and I really don't blame her), I thought she might give me a reason. Or better yet, say, "You're right. That's silly. You don't have to do it."

But no. She told me, "China requires it." But why, Jade, WHY? Do you understand what I mean when I ask why? Tell me the method behind your madness.

Oh Gina. Resistance is futile.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Greener grass?

"In America, I'll be able to drink water out of the tap again."

"In America, I can just go to the store and buy deodorant, instead of having to try to figure out when someone can bring me some in the next 6 months."

"In America, the likelihood that we will be woken up in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of our dog throwing up yet another inedible thing she found on the street will be significantly less." (this happens approximately once a week. This week, 3 times. Twice in one night).

These are the kind of thoughts I have frequently these days. It's hard not to look ahead and be excited about the positive changes to come. After living here so long the little adaptations we've had to make to do life here become forgotten, but the prospect of moving back brings them all to the surface.

In some ways, thinking about these things is helpful for me. It gives me things to anticipate in the midst of loss, even if they are little things. On the other hand, it's a dangerous route for my mind because it can breed discontent with my situation here. If I develop a habit of discontent in one place, it will not leave when I move to a place where the grass is greener, because I will have trained my heart to dwell on the negatives.

So I struggle to hold these emotions all at once - excitement and anticipation with contentment and gratitude for what I do have here.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Washing Windows

This morning I washed some of our outside windows, because I thought starting off the week with an exercise in futility would be a good challenge. It was also to remind myself how crazy dirty it can be here.

Why would I want to remind myself of that? When I write it, it just sounds depressing. But it serves several purposes. First, it helps me easily justify having a cleaning lady come every weekday morning for 4 hours; it reminds me that I am not a neat freak, just someone living in an urban jungle; and mostly importantly right now, it gives me hope that in the States I won't miss or need my helper as much as I think I will.

I mean don't get me wrong - I love this woman just as a person and I will miss her terribly. She brings joy into our house every day. But I know that my house will not rapidly decline into something filthy that would be featured on some reality show called "Dirty House."

See here's the thing. This is what my windows look like regularly, particularly if it has been raining (and this is the rainy season). I washed my windows this morning. By the end of the week, certainly sooner, they will look like this again. Why bother?

Last summer when I was at my parents' house, I noticed their front windows needed washing, so I did it. By the end of the summer - two months later - they still didn't need to be washed again.

This is true for our floors as well. We can justifiably mop every single day. It's not that I need super clean floors. It's that you can see dusty footprints, and also paths through the dust, if you don't.

This is something I'm always trying to explain to my Stateside friends, but they just don't seem to grasp it. They say their houses are "dirty" because they haven't cleaned in a couple weeks, but I look at them and see no visible dirt, so to me they're pretty darn clean.

Ok, I need to go finish washing the windows. Hopefully it won't rain for a few days so we can enjoy it.


This is the sign our neighbors across the way posted last Saturday after hearing that the bank in Orlando accepted our offer on a house there. It's been a long and at times frustrating process, but we're nearly there (pending all those details with the loan and what not).

If you're curious, the address is 14419 Nell Dr, Orlando, Florida, 32832. We hope to get everything settled before Erik goes radio silent out in the Wild West of China this Thursday.

Rejoice with us and pray that all goes well with the details!