I should be packing but instead I am thinking too much. My house is a mess, the furniture has all been sold, the apartment rented to another family, the airplane tickets purchased and the dog's paperwork in progress. I am having a moving sale tomorrow and the packers come on Thursday to take our things away which will leave us living out of suitcases for longer than is comfortable.
I confess that when the new job in Portland was confirmed, I felt more reluctance to leave China than I had anticipated. But as my expat friend Anna put it, maybe a person doesn't realize how deeply a place has become "home" until it is time to leave. Despite my confirmed antipathy toward the Chinese government, I am desperately sad to leave my community here. Living here has been a wonderful experience of community and friendship that I think must be truly rare in this day and age.
Despite that, I have become quite enthusiastic about the return to Portland. I am so looking forward to Multnomah Days, 4th of July, blueberries, pony rides, summer camp, friends, new school, a Sauvie Island corn maze, and Christmas at home. I am going to get a tree, a real, live tree, and decorate my house. It is going to be cozy. I can't wait.
Saturday night we had a going away party that highlighted how things have changed since we arrived in Qingdao three and a half years ago. I felt so completely alone when I moved to Qingdao, and my first few stilted interactions with the expat community left me wondering if coming to China was a huge and terrible mistake. It was December, bleak, snowing, and we were living in a hotel room, entertaining ourselves with Chinese TV and swims in the too cold pool.
Fast forward a few years and my back garden is packed full with friends from around the world. They are Chinese and American, Israeli, Slovakian and Romanian, French, Italian, British and Aussie. These people have completely changed my relationship with the world, and the world map on my floor now inspires games about our friends and where they are from.
So thank you, friends for so much more than coming for BBQ and beer, Chinese style, and I will get back to packing now and stop thinking so much.