Lauren & The Big Move Back to the USA–If my current life were a children’s book, that’s what the title would be. These first weeks back in the U.S. on Home Leave following the conclusion of our China tour have been fantastic. Like, walking-on-air-fantastic. I can’t even articulate how good it feels to be home, even if only for a few weeks before we migrate to our sister continent to the south.
Monday was Pack Out Day (cue Jaws dun-uh-dun-uh music), the day our entire household got disassembled and dissected, all our worldly goods boxed up and labeled for their journey to our South American onward assignment.
It’s hard for me to express just how deeply I dislike packing out. Think the scene from Julie & Julia where Julia is packaging up a cookbook and mourning her impending departure from Paris…. Then graft in a bit of Oscar the Grouch. And there you have it–me on Pack Out Day. Continue reading “The Pack Out Paradigm”→
Usually, I’m fairly responsible about my time management; I make sensible decisions, putting work and other obligations first. But this past Thursday night, I found myself still up at 2 AM–even with the start of my workday at the Consulate looming a mere 6 hours away–because I couldn’t tear myself away from a casual ladies’ night that brought together women from the Consulate ( a shoutout to our awesome hostess, if you’re reading!). I drank 3+ glasses of wine (amazing, since I’m usually a 1-glass-and-done kind of girl) and laughed until I had tears in my eyes… laughed harder than I have in months.
In the back of my mind, sensible Lauren was reminding me that I had to get home, that I still needed to shower and send off a bit of correspondence, that I had work in the morning. But I was having a desperately hard time prying myself away from the company. The women at the Consulate–Foreign Service officers and diplomatic spouses alike–come from incredibly diverse perspectives, experiences, and places. Occasionally, these differences cause conflict. But 95% of the time, I’m amazed by how lively, accepting, and kind our community is. Sitting there at 12:30 in the morning, trying not to wet my pants from giggling, I had two simultaneous thoughts running in the back of my mind:
“I can’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know these women, against all odds, despite the long distances we’ve had to travel to be here.”
“I can’t believe I have to say goodbye in two and a half months.”
As I mentioned in my post on romance in fiction, I’ve been on a bit of a love kick lately. So it seems appropriate that the stars would align to allow me to attend a wedding this weekend.
As you may guess, I didn’t spontaneously make the 13-hour-by-plane commute back to the States to attend nuptials. (Though I would happily kiss the feet of anyone who invented a working Harry-Potter-esque Portkey, thus preventing us from ever missing another wedding, graduation, etc., due to long distance.) Instead, this was the wedding (hūn lǐ) of one of my Chinese co-workers. His is actually the second Chinese wedding I’ve attended in our 1.5 years of living in China. In both cases, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to attend. It’s poignant thing, witnessing that incredible moment in someone’s life. And a Chinese wedding provides the added allure of a glimpse inside the culture.
Given that Harbin, China was once a hub for Trans-Siberian Railway construction, it’s unsurprising that an ice festival is the town’s current claim to fame. How poetic that even today, such a locale remains infamous for its (literally) freezing temperatures.
Truly, Harbin’s ice festival is stunning–particularly its crowing jewel, Harbin’s Ice and Snow World. I feel blessed to have made it there, at least once in my lifetime.
But I’ll be honest–magical as the Snow World was, there are some drawbacks to wandering around in -20°F weather (that’s actual temperature–none of this “feels like” nonsense!) after the sun goes down. Namely, being brutally, numbingly cold. The day after our icy adventure, our group decided to take a break and head to the (only slightly) warmer Siberian Tiger Park.
In addition to introducing the upcoming year, Chinese New Year also marks the official start of spring according to China’s lunar calendar.
This year, I owe the lunar calendar a big commendation, as it pegged spring’s arrival perfectly. Just two weeks ago, temperatures here were in the 40s and 50s. Following on the heels of February 8th’s New Year celebration, the cherry blossoms are blooming and I’m shedding my jacket, happily welcoming 75°F days.
But the sunny days have made me nostalgic, bringing to a close our last winter to be spent in China. With the days counting down to the end of our assignment, I’m fondly remembering adventures we’ve taken, even as I wonder how well we’ve availed ourselves of our time here.
Having lived in China for over a year now, I’ve nabbed a few opportunities to venture out exploring from my home base of Chengdu. I have under my belt multiple visits to the glittering capital of Beijing; I’ve stopped in Guangzhou, an important southern port city. My husband and I visited Jiuzhaiguo and its breathtaking nature park; we made our way up to Harbin, a Chinese city located near the Russian and North Korean borders (a phenomenal trip that included visiting the world’s largest ice festival, as well as snow fox and baby tiger-snuggling moments).