Wow there are so many American ex-pats… in-pats… here

I’m writing from the U.S.! We arrived safe and sound in Long Island a couple days after a long journey involving four trains and a plane. It’s lovely to be back and to spend time with Amaury’s family, most of which involves eating home-cooking and running around after our nephews. I also spent an amazing hour shopping in Target- it’s so satisfying to find everything you want and more in one place for decent prices and in a language you can read. I also had a strange experience in Starbucks where I heard people speaking English and my gut reaction was “Oh, there are American ex-pats here.” Reverse culture shock is real friends.

The 12 hour time difference is always a struggle. I’ve been exhausted at 3pm/3am and wide awake at 3am/3pm. My computer clock hasn’t caught up, so it currently reads 3am, even though I’m trying to ignore it.

To pass some of the time while traveling, I wrote to you while on the train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. The rest of this letter was written then…

Wedding week is upon us! And, for the second time in a week, Amaury and I are on a train headed to Hong Kong. This time we’re heading out to catch our flight to the U.S., which leaves tomorrow (Sunday) morning. Of course, we couldn’t resist heading to Hong Kong a day early to enjoy the beautiful city and its tasty food.  Interestingly, knowing we have a day to relax in Hong Kong before has significantly reduced my nerves about the international flight and wedding planning. Everything I had to prepare is done, our bags are packed, vendors are paid, and final logistical emails have been sent. Now all there is to do is look forward to the time with family and relax before we leave.

Last week we spent a lovely Saturday on a junk boat on Hong Kong Bay. Going on a junk boat in Hong Kong is a popular spring and summer pass-time where you head out on the Bay with a large group of friends and spend the day eating, drinking, swimming, and relaxing in the sunshine. Last weekend’s junk was a joint celebration of one friend’s birthday and another’s departure from Guangzhou.

All of us

My favorite part was swimming; Amaury’s was playing his carefully curated playlist of Latin beats. Everyone loved the feast the boat company prepared for us- tandoori chicken, salad, pulled pork sandwiches, grilled salmon, cheese sticks, cake, and a huge variety of drinks.

On a boat

The next day we visited our friend T and his family at their Wan Chai apartment. We sometimes day-dream about one day living in Hong Kong, it’s such a nice, though crowded, place. We wandered around their neighborhood, ate a greasy, American-style breakfast, and took the ferry back to our hotel in Mongkok because we can never resist heading out on the water.

View from the ferry

This week was busy, of course, with final wedding preparations, but my Guangzhou life always pulls me into the present moment with outings, meetings, and welcome down-time. I recently decided to start a French conversation group, since I rarely speak it anymore and there are several native and advanced speakers in our community. Our first meeting went great and we agreed to make it a monthly group. I’m also on a working group organizing an annual ex-pat community summer camp for elementary school kids and have applied to be a Camp Counselor. That meant listing my oldest work experience first including my summers spent as a daycare aide and band camp counselor in my teens. As an example of ensuring children’s safety, I highlighted the times I went roving in the  woods simultaneously looking for and hoping to avoid bears.

Most of my down-time this week was spent playing piano and attempting to learn guitar from online courses. So far I’ve learned the 8 main beginner chords and can play “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” with many dramatic pauses to adjust my fingers that no longer have any feeling in them. It’s fun to have a new project and I gain great satisfaction from my halting progress. I reasoned that if I can learn enough Chinese to haggle in the markets, I must be able to learn guitar… right?

Truthfully, my continued lack of a full-time job and inability to work on the local economy (a restriction of my Chinese visa) has really been weighing on me lately. I’m so thankful to be able to throw myself into my myriad language, music, self-improvement, research, and travel projects. And my personal belief is that at the end of the day, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. On that note, now I’m going to put my computer aside and enjoy looking out at the great expanse whizzing by my train window.

Next time I write, I’ll be married AGAIN and have lots to recount I’m sure.

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