Our past few weeks before we leave China have been chalk full of festivities. Party after party. We are so blessed to have made so many good friends here.
It all started with Thanksgiving! My last Thanksgiving in China a couple years ago, Taren and I ended up at a snack bar at the super market eating a single cob of corn and a steamed bun, which I realized after one bite was full of tiny little sea worms. Needless to say, the rest of it went uneaten.
This year, I was determined to make it better. And thankfully, had some help to make it happen. A coworker who brought us an American turkey all the way across the sea in his suitcase, a wonderful lady in our branch who happily did all our Thanksgiving shopping for us since we are two hours away from the nearest international market, Alicia and her arsenal of cooking tips, two willing husbands, and six Filipinos and three Chinese people ready to eat whatever we fed them!
I have never been in charge of cooking a meal for a whopping 13 people before, especially not Thanksgiving. Alicia and I spent literally three uninterrupted hours planning the meal in advance, from recipes to a cooking schedule narrowed down to every 15 minutes.
The day of, the two of us and our husbands spent literally all day in the kitchen, bustling about to get everything ready on time. We only had a few small mess ups…Kindall burning the hob nob crust for the pudding pie, Erica dropping the emergency chives in the road on the scooter ride back from the market, Kindall burning the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes, the rolls turning out more like kitchen sponges than homemade bread, you get the idea.
But it couldn’t have been better. We had it all: turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, brown-sugar glazed carrots, marshmallow sweet potatoes, salad, macaroni and cheese, rolls, stuffing, cranberry sauce, apple cider vinegar, and a homemade pumpkin pie that would make Marie Callender proud.
This was the first meal in China where I think I ate twice as much as any of the native people. For once I was the one eating my heart out on all these delicious foods, and they were the ones thinking “I’m not sure if i like this turkey stuff…”
But I think they enjoyed it overall. It was wonderful to have all our friends/Chinese family around us and share with them one of Americas most beloved traditions. We got to pray with them to start the meal, and then we went around and everyone said something that they are thankful for. It was really sweet to hear them all say they are thankful for their health and their families, and all the blessings that the year has brought. I’m really going to miss these people when we leave. They have taken such good care of me.
Aside from Thanksgiving, we had a couple birthday parties, where we sung karaoke for hours and ate a roasted pig on a stick, a ward Christmas party, where we were unofficially given the title of the Cutest Couple of 2013 by the primary kids, and a goodbye party, where we wrote our wishes on giant lanterns and set them off into the sky. Between Maria and Elma, we were wished “a many babies” and “boy first!” multiple times. It’s a wonder I didn’t go home pregnant.
I am really going to miss this place. This is where we spent our entire first year of marriage, and it feels like a piece of my home! China is MAGICAL. I’ll miss riding our scooter through the beautiful green mountains, jogging through the village rice paddies, perusing the ceramics factory every day, and eating all the Chinese food I can get. But most of all, I’ll miss the people. The Chinese people who became our family, the Filipinos who invited us to all their crazy parties, the factory ladies whose smiles never ceased, and the branch members who went out of their way to give us a little piece of home whenever they could.
This last year was perfect. We lived it up! We rode elephants, swam in jungle waterfalls, laid on the beach, played with monkeys, explored 1,000-year-old ruins, learned Chinese (Kindall already knew it), karaoke-d for hour on end, taught primary, and learned hands-on how all kinds of things were made, from ceramics to Christmas trees to glass figurines to lightbulbs to stuffed animals. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.
And with regards to going home, my feelings are mixed. There is something scary about leaving the most adventurous, crazy place you’ve ever been and going back to the normal and familiar. Some people might feel the exact opposite ha. And i probably would have agreed with them a couple years ago! But now, instead of being scared of things like chicken feet and Chinese men, I am scared of homework and laundry and how I’m going to make friends in a ward with more than 60 people in it. Sometimes going back to the “normal” things is harder than going away from them.
But, I’m ready. I am ready to confront the real world head on, and knock out homework and laundry and making friends like I’ve been doing it all my life. Because, in reality, I have.
It’s a wonderful feeling to be moving on to the next stage in life, full of hope and enthusiasm and anticipation for what’s ahead, and to be able to look back on the past year and be happy.
And to all you newlywed couples, I couldn’t recommend a better first year of marriage than moving across the world and taking it on all on your own.
Our last time eating jiao zi
We miss these guys.
Wishing for long life, a house full of children, and friendship to span 1,000 miles
3,000 + steps later
And last but not least: This gorgeous lady is the greatest. She works on the assembly line in the factory, testing light bulb sockets from 7 am-9pm every day, Monday-Friday with every other Saturday off. And she is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. Every day when I pass, she shouts out “Ai, liang mei!” (pretty little sister) and bombards me with chatter and all kinds of questions about life in America. She always brought a smile to my face, and helped me improve my Chinese more than I could have done myself. And even hand knit me a scarf for Christmas. What a wonderful friend.
We love you, China. We’ll be back.