Saturday, March 15, 2014

Zaijian - Farewell

It's time for the wrap up, the send-off, the “So Long!  Farewell!”

We are leaving China and our three-year Nanjing home within days.

Three adventurous eye-opening years slipped through our toes like goose shat on a fescued steep hill.  Zip!  Zap!  Zoop!

We arrived, we discovered and we will become repatriated in the good old United States of America. It has been a great adventure and an unbelievable privilege to live life abroad at this point in our lives.

We’ve learned a lot.  

What have we learned?

·         A wee bit of Mandarin
·         Patience
·         How to tolerate being an outsider
·         That a country without guns is less violent - period
·         That manners are cultural and not universal
·         That poor air quality sucks
·         That we are resilient and remain in love with each other

We now boast friends across the world.  Way across the world.  Far enough that the chance of raising a glass and toasting “Cheers!” ever again with so many amazing people is not likely…at all.

That is the sad reality of being an expatriate. People enter your circle and then “Poof” they are gone. Employers often change direction and the life-altering impact rests squarely on the expatriated.  Daily reports of friends about to make a great big move to “Somewhere-Else” are the norm.

We learned to accept those sudden changes.

Therefore for three years we made the most out of every encounter and interaction.

My adult children will attest that as youngsters I not only yelled, “Be Careful!” when they walked out of the house, but also echoed “Be a Friend to All you Meet”.  I hope we accomplished that in Nanjing.

We tried.

The Big Guy’s co-workers befriended us early on in our assignment.  We delighted in their acceptance of us. Smiles came easy to them. They’ve been generous with help and patient with our Ching-lish vocabulary.   Yes, they corrected us, but politely.  We have been invited into their homes, to their weddings and have met their families, too.  To be included in this fashion was so meaningful and immeasurably enriched our three years.

We are grateful.

Speaking of friends, we are the last two of an original crew of nine FORD employees and spouses who “Embraced the New Normal in Nanjing.”

Three years didn’t stand still for any of the “Normals” you have read about in this blog.

One moved within China
One moved to Thailand
One left the company after a year of Asia Pacific experience
One returned to the U.S. after fulfilling a two-year contract
And our great friends and favorite expat family of three blossomed before our eyes into a family of four.

They repatriated in February and I can’t tell you how much we miss their Nanjing presence. 

There were so many reasons to celebrate among the “Normals” – a new baby, a first grandchild, promotions, visits from families and friends, American holidays, birthdays, an engagement and miles and miles of frequent travel. 

Each one of us leaves with a feeling of accomplishment. We conquered, in our own way, our little corner of Asia Pacific.

We learned from other expats around us to remain a bit stoic and guarded about missing American holidays and family milestones.  That was a challenge. I learned to paste on a stiff upper lip while quietly yearning to be with loved ones a half-world away as they celebrated. But those who know me best were not fooled.  You know who you are.

In the USA, our physical appearance will cause less public attention and scrutiny.  Children won’t point us out as strangers and remark about our size (big) or our skin tone (white.) No one will crane their necks to curiously look into our grocery cart to see what the “aliens” are buying and remark to each other about our poor choices.  

Daily communication with local people will be so much easier. I will be more understood than misunderstood.

My internet and phone texts will be more or less private.

We won’t have to plan ahead for every outing and errand. We will drive OURSELVES about town.

I’m looking forward to all of it.


In Mandarin the word for USA is “Meiguo” which means “beautiful country.”

As far as we’re concerned it is exactly that.

“Meiguo” sparkles and shimmers in our freshly washed eyes.

Americans have choices. They care about policies and politics because they will be heard and they may make a difference without altercations or imprisonment.  

In January our niece and her three children marched in Washington D.C. for a cause they are passionate about. I respect that opportunity more than ever and applaud their commitment.

That would not happen in China without reported scrutiny and some repercussions.

Locals have told me that they rarely care who is actually politically in charge because they have no power or voice to change it – None.

That last sentence is worth re-reading until it resonates.

Chinese people are very proud to be Chinese. But if asked, many would say that they aspire to live & own property in the USA. They want their children to learn the English language and attend its universities.  Shy preschoolers are continually shoved toward me in public with parents or grandparents insisting that the child greet me with “Hello!”  They perceive that uttering those two syllables to an American stranger is likely an early sign of their one child’s future success.  Perhaps it will be a golden ticket for a grand future glistening with opportunity.  It’s what we ALL crave for those we love, no matter what our nationality.

Sure, I know the USA isn’t twinkly perfect - but you won’t hear me say anything else for a very long time.

We will arrive ready to embrace our USA citizenship with heightened pride and deep gratitude.

Expect much less whining about long waits, freedom of speech and rights of privacy. I do expect to cringe at whiney US citizens who feel “entitled” to well…..EVERYTHING. 

I will refrain from calling all Americans (including myself) privileged spoiled brats - but I will forever think it.

I fully expect, like others who have returned before me, to react to our National anthem with a lump in my throat from this point on. It’s a given.

Let the rejuvenating process of repatriating to our home country begin on the first day of Spring 2014.

It’s time to go.

Time to blend who we once were with who we are now and find out
who we will become.

I am so proud of my Big Guy for what he has accomplished for FORD – Asia Pacific.

His local team and so many others acknowledge his leadership. They were daily recipients of his willingness to drop everything anytime to mentor and advise them. They listened intently to him, often heeding his advice and even quoting him months after a mentoring session.

He will be missed.

This assignment was a wonderful fit for my strategist and knowledgeable husband.  Definitely the highlight of his nearly 25 years with Ford Motor Company.

Call us “gob-smacked” by the privilege of working, living and traveling abroad for three years. We did embrace the opportunities to the best of our ability. 

You see, living in China was NEVER on our radar screen and now we’ve successfully done just that. 

But it’s time.

Our sizzling passports need a rest.

We step off a plane and drive to a place in a suburban woods - HOME again.

Please bring on:

Family and Friends
Michigan’s four seasons.
Small town parades with marching bands
Ice cream
National Public Radio
Unsurpassed health care
Clean drinking water
Building codes
Unsuspicious Meat & Food Safety
Cultural Events and Museums
Beautiful Great Lakes and Majestic Oceans
Heated Public Spaces
Religious freedom
Grass clippings and deciduous trees
National and State Parks
Voting Booths
Outdoor concerts

Yes, it’s time….

Blare the sound system with Bob Seeger’s “Born in the USA” since…

Cricket and the Big Guy are Coming Home and We Can’t Wait to ‘hug your necks!’

Thanks for Reading!
Zai jian - So Long & Farewell,

Please enjoy some more photos…

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stopped Stitching But Still Running

The summer of 2012 I created  Run Stitch Run - Stitching to Support those Less Fortunate than Ourselves - a grassroots organization. The Pillowcase Project was born - funded by generous folks and crafty sewing friends and strangers.
A year ago in the Fall of 2012, my friend Angie and I traveled to an orphanage near Fujian, China. Our suitcases were filled to the brim with custom and unique pillowcases to gift each child housed there.  An entire year later I still resonate with that opportunity, still stunned and so grateful to each donor and participant.   We made a wee difference on this side of the world. The project portrayed Westerners as generous, playful, kind and colorful.  In my mind, that's a very good thing.

[see my blog post "Step Out or Stay Put" -12/3/2012 ]

I count this experience as the most eye-opening and life-altering week of my three-year China adventure.
Since then Run Stitch Run has donated even more pillowcases to two other Chinese orphanages.
Before the last 'batch' of pillowcases went out I  managed to squirrel some away for just the right moment.  That moment has come.
Butterfly Children’s Hospice will benefit from the remaining 25 pillowcases. They will be sold at the Nanjing International Club Fall Bazaar with 100% of the proceeds given to Jenine Basaraba, Director of Butterfly Children's Hospice, her newest mission.  Jenine never tires of helping others and has a great big heart, especially for children in need.  Chinese view medicine in a very different light and forbid any pain medication for children.  Can you imagine?

 Read about this worthwhile cause here

Generosity made a difference then and now and I thank all of you who contributed to the Run Stitch Run Pillowcase Project.  Before distributing the pillowcases a year ago, Jenine read the words I knew my donors wanted to convey to these children. Children who came from hurt and faced an uphill daily battle with past demons and future difficulties: 

I asked her to say these words: 

"You are Strong!
You are Beautiful!
And Yes, You are Loved!"

Here are more photos from that remarkable week.  They were just collecting dust in my photo gallery and I wanted you to get a glimpse once that WE ALL continue making a difference - big or small.

Looking back and Moving Forward...

While the Children Went to School - Five of Us Walked Down the Mountain to Town

We will Always Recall Infectious Smiles and Warm Goodbyes.  Once Again, I Thank All the Donors Who Made a Difference
in these Children's Lives and the Lives of the Young Patients at
the Butterfly Children's Hospice of Nanjing China

Thanks for Reading,