I’d like to say that it’s not lost on me but sometimes it is . . . the whole life overseas thing.
I’ve been at it long enough that most of the cross-cultural bloggy stuff (mine included) seems like it’s for someone else. I went through the stages of grief and the culture shock continuum. I came through the dip and here I am.
I’m on the other side and it’s normal . . . this is my life . . . I’m still a foreigner but it’s not weird anymore.
My everyday existence plays out in a place that most people (where I come from) would never dream of going. If they did it would be the trip of a lifetime.
Honestly, for me, some days, the most exciting part of my day is taking the trash out.
Chinese food is just food here (in China). Life abroad is just life.
Here are the things I forget to love
ONE: I forget to love the high culture
I’ve seen the Great Wall and the Terra Cotta Soldiers. I’ve walked through the Forbidden City and I have blown things up on Chinese New Year. That all feels a bit worn out and touristy at this point . . . but I forget how rich the heritage of this place is. Every high culture relic and overdone tourist trap has a deep history and a million stories — and there is so much more to learn.
TWO: I forget to love the bumbling language mistakes
My first day in China I rode the bus halfway across the city to tell the girl at Pizza Hut that I wanted to pray. I was trying to say I wanted my pizza to go. We had a good laugh about that. We laughed a lot back then. I even wrote about it.
It was funny — but it’s been a while since I added any new bumbling language stories to my journal. I’d love to say that’s because my Chinese is so outstanding that I don’t make mistakes anymore but there are 1.4 Billion witnesses around who know that’s not true.
They still laugh at me why can’t I?
THREE: I forget to love the people that I came to love
Back in the day EVERYONE was fascinating. The old men playing cards in the park. The little kids who grabbed their mother by the skirt and shouted “foreigner!” when I walked by.
I’m thrilled to be out of the wide-eyed tourist mode where every face is facebook fodder . . . “Waaah look! a real live Chinese person. Take a picture.”
I’m happy that to me they have become real people — people with back stories and challenges and aspirations and issues — but sometimes in real life, I just ignore real people.
I miss the wonder. The intrigue. The curiosity about what they see and think when they look back at me.
FOUR: I forget to love the crazy stuff that would have never ever happened in a million years
My son recently performed at a political summit for the President of China . . . and Vladmir Putin . . . and Prime Minister Modi of India and the heads of State for THIRTEEN other nations.
That’s him in the yellow.
He got his picture taken with Zhang Yimou, the Stephen Spielberg of China and the director of the famous 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.
How does that even?
Stuff like that never happened in Decatur, Illinois.
This life overseas has given us a world of surreal experiences . . . and sometimes I forget to pause and say, “wow.”
FIVE: I forget to love the people who will be gone soon
It’s the big nasty part of this overseas life. People leave. A lot.
Sometimes that becomes such a normal part of this whole thing that I get numb to it. I forget (or more likely neglect) to make the most of the moments that are about to fly away.
SIX: I forget to love the food
Here we just call it food but we could also call it authentic — legit — and downright amazing compared to the overcooked, over gravied, flourescent orange “International Buffet” style “Chinese Food” (those are finger quotes) slopped into a stainless steel trough and served under hot lights with a fortune cookie . . . WHICH IS NOT CHINESE!!
Those places serve only to remind me how good I’ve got it.
SEVEN: I forget to love my kids TCKness
I wrestled through the rootlessness and the restlessness early on. Came to grips with it. Found my peace as a parent.
I fell in love with the whole concept of Third Culture Kids and the beauty that comes from a life overseas — but like most things I love I go through phases of taking them for granted. In the context of homework and messy rooms, I forget to remember that good things — solid things — incredible, deep, global things are being built into their framework because we live how we live.
EIGHT: I forget to love the adventure
I should clarify. This would be an adventure no matter where we lived. There is nothing superior about a life overseas — but this is OUR story. It’s filled with highs and lows. Mystery and intrigue. Heroes and villains in far off places and tons of selfies.
Sometimes I forget that because . . . life.
This story is amazing — even in the most mundane, normal, painfully uneventful moments.
They are funny things . . . love and forgetfulness. The good news is that memory can be jogged and all it takes is one special reminder.
This life is SO rich. So full. So worth loving.
Try not to forget that but if you do . . . try to remember.