You slip in and out of things like summer… without realizing how much time it took to get there and how fast it came. Before you slip out you find yourself at a high. Your theme word for those few months is “bliss” and it fits. Even so, you can remember how the first few minutes back in your country felt. Uncomfortable. You felt like, why was I in such a hurry to leave? Once it slips away, you move onto missing it. The missing gets less and the ache fades… and then you realize that the reason for the decreasing ache is because the next summer is already in order. You slip in and you slip out and it feels like forever and it feels like not enough time. The next summer comes… and the next. You get three summers being a guest in your home state and nothing, no matter how good it is could be like those three summers.
You slip in and out of things like Suzhou. Three years sounding like more than they really are. The first few weeks of those three years you feel lonely. Excited. Uncomfortable. Happy. You look back on those first few weeks and all you can seem to remember are things like, the way everybody jumped up whenever someone came to the door. The way the city felt like a maze. The way that that maple spread we packed in our suitcase tasted, paired with bad Chinese bread. Feeling uncomfortable and comfortable at the same time because we were IN CHINA but we were together and we were where we were supposed to be. Living in a foreign country became more like living in America after a while. It was obviously very different but grew ever more familiar with each passing week. One day you’d venture out a little further than the day before and find something else to fall in love with, like the way 60 people could fit on a public bus and that already seemed like way too many when… oh look… 10 more people were trying to push you further into every other person behind you. Uncomfortable yes. The way there was a wall around the oldest part of the city and that part of town still had 2000 year old paved rock streets. The way a new skyscraper would go up before your eyes which you didn’t even notice until it was done and then it just looked strange standing where a field used to be. And the way the Chinese people you choose to live life alongside of became more and more understandable. More like friends rather than foreigners. The language more like Spanish to an English hearing ear rather than Alien-ese to a human. The faces more and more varied and recognizable and warm and beautiful.
You can really fall in love with a city and falling in love is kind of like not wanting to ever separate from that place or person or thing you fell for. I didn’t fall for Suzhou’s charm right away. It actually took a while. I think part of the reason I fell was because I figured out how to get around by myself and how to be perfectly unafraid of doing so. It feels good to be independent. It feels good to go somewhere and know how to get back home after you’ve gone adventuring. I wasn’t so bold at first but that came and now knowing the buses to and from each place I go (mostly) and knowing that the subway is so easy… you can go one way or the opposite way; there’s only one line!… and knowing that I can get back to my house?… this is stuck in my head. In 50 years it could still be stuck there. It’s not too hard to remember anymore.
You think back to some days and you can’t help but account the thoughts that were going through your head. Unpleasant, unfiltered, sad, scary. Walking around feeling kind of listless (sometimes because of a boy) and waiting for something. Sometimes you don’t really know what. Those things drift away though and when you look back at a normal week living in Suzhou the easy, fun, adventurous and likable memories often take precedence over the ugly ones.
Even if you’re overseas, living far from people you love, they live their lives. You arrive in America and find everybody living out their life day by day, just not in your presence.
So now. We’re a week away from leaving Suzhou and it’s Thanksgiving. We’re spending the weekend in Shanghai celebrating with our family. As I lay in bed at night I try to remember all the things I want to do in my last week in Suzhou. I need to go buy new socks for the airplane because I always do that. I need to ask my teacher for my midterm test scores. I need to eat at the canteen a few more times. I need to find bracelets for the dance I’m going to. I need to… But most importantly. I need to thoroughly enjoy every last second of living in Suzhou. I need to take an extra bus ride so I won’t have bad withdrawals (;)). I need to realize that goodbye is not for good, but it’s still goodbye. I need to be the best friend that I can be and the best daughter and sister too. And I need to remember that He brought me here for a reason. He knew that I, with my family would move to Suzhou and that we’d move away too. If He knew that all along then isn’t it and wasn’t it the right thing to do in the first place? Isn’t the next step supposed to be hard and wonderful at the same time? I hope so. I’m thankful that now I am comfortable here. That I am a resident, not just a tourist (check my visa). That I did get the chance to be a guest in my home state of Colorado for three summers in a row. That I got to return to China after each of those summers. I’m thankful that I can call Suzhou home. One of my homes at least. And I’m thankful that I DO have Him to be my guide. Through everything. Through every rich + high time. Through every poor + low one.
You slip into things like Summer and Suzhou and it comes so fast, you live in it so thoroughly, you remember hard times and you remember easy times, and you love it. You slip out of things like Summer and Suzhou and you move onto missing it… and thanking Him, because after all you were finally comfortable there… and He is the reason for comfort.
So. Thank you Dad and Mom, for everything. Thank you Becca and Beth, my best friends. Thank you Andrew, my music partner and brother. Thank you Matthew, Ben, Rachael and William, my favorite people living in America. Thank you boy cousins, Maggie and Uncle Jon + Aunt Judy, my Shanghai family and cheerer-up-ers. Thank you Una, my Chinese sister. Thank you university schoolmates, you guys are so fun. Thank you high school buddies, you made science worthwhile. Thank you Chinese people, you made this city bright. Thank you house #235, my only home in PRC. Thank you Suzhou, I’ll be back. Thank you China, of course. And thank You Jesus. You always said I’d love it here.
Photo taken and edited by me with my iPhone.
**I wrote this post in the weeks before I moved away from Suzhou (on my iPhone at random creative moments) and I posted it on my tumblr a few days before we flew out of China. I haven't blogged in forever (since my "first day of university" post!) and so I wanted to share this "farewell for now Suzhou" with you all so you at least know that I no longer live in China. I love living in America but man, this moving away from China thing hurts. I miss it a lot each and every day and can't wait to go back again in the future. I'll write again soon.