Three years ago I was in the midst of packing and repacking bags as I came down to the last days of my China life. Thankfully I was able to leave many household items for the new resident of my apartment — an expatriate teacher who would need everything. Nevertheless, my cherished house plants needed to find new homes, and I continued the emotional interactions of good-byes and last talks and meals with friends. My checklist shrank and grew as I would tick off a finished task but then add a new one.
Settling into life in the USA after decades overseas would be hard. I knew it would be and was forewarned. And I could make a quite a long list why it is so difficult and continues to be so.
But, today I thought, why don’t I reflect on, for lack of a better descriptor, the good things I have encountered these past three years back in the USA? So, I will do my best to keep my naturally melancholy heart less vocal and my pessimistic thinking less obvious , and will not try to give into the temptation to add a cynical remark.
Family: Within these last three years, I have been at the bedside of my mother and now recently my sister when they gave their last breaths. Many overseas workers don’t have that sacred honor of spending the last days and hours with a loved one on earth.
I also have had that deep joy of holding two great nephews soon after their birth. This delight I don’t take lightly as I am reminded that many years ago I had to wait over two years to meet their mother, my niece, who I never held as a baby. She didn’t come on time, so I had to board my plane without being able to see her as a newborn. However, looking back, perhaps God knew it would have been harder for me to see her, hold her and then leave right away.
Nature: Clean air and blue skies with the changing panorama of clouds, multitudes of flowers with every hue and shape, green woods full of trees and wildlife, streams that wind and water, and the rolling fields of corn, wheat and/or soybeans will always touch my soul in a deep way. I now nurture my own flower garden outside, experimenting with species and colors, cursing the beetles and worms, and pleading for rain, and am awed how plants grow and flourish, bloom and die. Houseplants sustain the green within my home and during the winter months, they hint of hope for life ’til springtime.
Convenience: I can drive around most of the time without much care of the weather. My car is conveniently steps away from my apartment’s front door. I have room in my car, trunk, and can fill it without thinking how I’m going to get it on my bike. Shopping carts are available, and I can push the cart right to my car and unload. When driving, I can expect most people to follow the laws.
I can make an appointment by phone call for the doctor, dentist, beautician, and am expected to be there. I can get service at a bank or the post office or grocery store after lining up, and many places will even up another line/cash register/window to keep people from waiting.
I blend in quite well around here, so I actually seem quite invisible.
I am expected to pay the price of the item or produce at the farm market as labeled.
Different Worldview: I have a different outlook on life that has been shaped from living as a foreigner in a different culture. I know what it’s like to be a minority. I have a belief system that has been become more sensitive and attuned to what real truth is based on what God’s Word –the Bible– says and not only what my upbringing and culture has taught me.
And as I writing this, I’m realizing, the list may not end. These past three years have been HARD but there has been a lot of GOOD, a lot of GOOD. And I smile.