Pinching myself

A couple of months ago a good friend who was visiting asked me as we sat out on our balcony, enjoying our coffee, and overlooking this city of nearly 7 million Chinese, whether I ever pinch myself and say, wow, I’m in China.

The view from Green Mountain, with Nanning’s skyscrapers in the distance.

I can’t say that I’ve done much of that over the past two years.  

Sure, there’s the occasional marveling that whole segments of my life have been conducted in another language, or the sense of feeling so close, yet so far away from Chinese friends and Chinese culture.  But for the most part I like to think that living life here has been so challenging, consuming, and rewarding that I hadn’t gotten to that kind of contemplation.

Now that we’re leaving, though, I pinch myself every two seconds.

A view of the Yong River in Guangxi, Nanning.

On my couch the other day, my breath caught in my throat when it hit me that at the rate China’s changing, even if I return one short year from now, I’ll hardly know it, I’ll hardly know anything.  Today, on the bus, between foster visits I caught myself musing in Chinese, and realized how lonely it will feel when I return to the US and am expected to speak (and only understood, in) English.  Or today when I had the honor of consoling a foster mom whose first foster child left and was adopted, I wondered whether this was the last time I’d do that.

Those are the hardest driving-it-home-that-we’re-really leaving moments.  

Minority villagers visit in Yunnan province.

The having to say no–no, I can’t go out to the countryside this month, no I can’t visit next month with your family, and no, I don’t know when I’ll return either.  Gulp.

And I’m often tempted and guilty of letting the worries in.  I worry about each no, each goodbye, about the ones I’ve said and the ones I won’t have time to say.  We just bought our tickets home today, so it’s only natural to begin sensing the finality of it all.

The forest surrounding Green Mountain, Nanning. All photos by Evan Schneider.

So my new mantra is to embrace the imperfection, to expect and allow things to happen, and not be foolish enough to try to control it all or miss the trees for the forest.  

So many things unfolded with such surprising timing and fortune for us here in since we’ve gotten to China and that’s no fluke.  I just have to trust God that the transatlantic, bumpy road ahead of us is already in place no matter what comes…that, and maybe pinch myself a couple hundred of times everyday until the end of July.

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