Whew! It has been quite a whirlwind these past few weeks. We left the States after being there for six months, returned to China for five whole days, then packed our bags again to come to Thailand for a month. There have been tears and stress along the way, but overall the process has gone rather smoothly and the kids are handling things pretty well. Being in Thailand where the weather is always gorgeous in the winter certainly helps ease our transition!
Backing up some, leaving the States was just as difficult as when we left the first time five years ago. Saying good-bye is one aspect of living abroad that I loathe. It never gets easier. I have learned to give the sadness and tears plenty of freedom to express themselves during those last two weeks in the States. I have no other way of describing it, other than to say it’s brutal! Speaking of things that are brutal about living abroad, hauling our stuff and our kids back across the ocean is terrible as well. Imagine moving through multiple airports with 9 pieces of luggage, 3 rolling carry-ons, 3 back-packs, 2 car seats, and 1 stroller…oh, and 2 toddlers. You are probably wondering how that is even possible. It is possible, but I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy. It causes major stress, marital strife, temper tantrums, and nervous breakdowns. The only hope I have during the process is knowing that it will end when we reach home (and Xanax for the flight anxiety).
On a positive note, this time we discovered an amazing way of making things slightly easier. After we flew straight from Dallas to Beijing, we booked a hotel in Beijing which gave us a day of rest before we boarded our next two domestic flights in China to get home. During our day of rest in Beijing, we contacted a mailing service and arranged for them to come to the hotel, pick up most of our luggage, seal our luggage into boxes, then send it to our home in Southern China – all for a fraction of the cost that it would have been to take it on the plane with us. It was wonderful because we didn’t have to carry everything back to the Beijing airport, and the mailing service delivered it to our door within 3 days after we returned home. It was amazing! Figuring that out has given us a renewed pride in being expert travelers (nevermind the fact that expert travelers would not travel with 500+ pounds of luggage in the first place).
Arriving back at home in China was not as bad as we expected. Our house helper had cleaned our home so well that it was hard to tell that two people had been living in our house for six months. There were a handful of things that were broken like the washing machine, but we were not surprised by that since products are not made to last long in China. Based on my allergies, I could tell there was more mold in the house than normal (tropical climate problems), but after washing a lot of the clothes that we had left hanging in closets and folded in drawers, that problem was alleviated. And best of all, I got all the suitcases and things we had bought in the States put away in just a few days. Multiple people were trying to convince me to just worry about unpacking until after we got back from our current trip in Thailand, but the organizer in me just couldn’t resist but to get everything back in its place before we left again. All in all, we were amazed at how quickly we felt settled!
After a week in China, we headed to Thailand which is where we have been for the past week and a half. We started our trip here by sending off the paperwork to get new visas for China. We are slightly nervous about this since over the past year China has been passing new laws that have made obtaining a work visa more difficult for anyone other than the professional businessman. These rules have already impacted many of our friends. We are on a tourist visa, so we are not having as many issues getting a visa as our friends are, but we may have problems in the future. After visas, next on our list was medical appointments, my homeschool conference, and some work-related stuff this past week. I was excited to attend this conference because I was eager to learn all about this new homeschooling journey I am about to take! My conference ended this past weekend and next we have one more week-long meeting before we head to the beach for a little family vacation at the beginning of February.
Looking back at the last few weeks, I can’t believe all the packing and traveling we have done. Five years ago, I would have truly lost my mind at even the thought of it, but by the Father’s grace we are doing great and looking forward to a couple more weeks in Thailand!