Thursday, July 2, 2009

It Seems Like...

...It Was Yesterday

A few weeks after I arrived in China I wrote the following post but never published it. Here is it, unpolished! I have added at the end what I would write today.

That Sense of Belonging

"A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles."

Tim Cahill

You know that feeling of belonging to a place. Well for me it’s often when I start not being bothered by the new place different smells anymore and also when I come upon somebody I know in the street. No I’m not talking within the complex building that would be way too easy, I’m talking about in the big wide open streets of Beijing (and that’s a good challenge since there is 15 million legal inhabitants in BJ). Well that remind me of a conversation that I often have with people when I tell them about our life style (aka expat life)

I have been asked a few times already of all the places I have lived in which one was my favorite, and to my surprise I couldn’t pick one. Each and everyone hold a special place in my heart for multiple and diverse reasons. And I’m not trying to be cheesy. I might have a different opinion if we are sent to a camp in Africa but even so I think it’s what you make out of the situation that make it special and the people you meet along the journey.

I absolute love Colorado and Denver. I was 20, took a year off to go to the States to brush up on my non-existent English and I absolutely love the freedom. My surrogate family (the Stahl) were adorable with me and made me part of their family. Cosette and Nicolas are in their 20’s now. Let's not forget Dany, Catherine and Aurélie my fellow Au Pair companions. And of course I met Jeffrey which prompts me to extend my stay a little bit longer in the states. (He still owes me that year I was supposed to spend in Italy to brush up on my then very good Italian!!)
Texas was different than Colorado, I missed the mountains that reminded me of the mountains back home in Grenoble (France) but this is where I for the first time find out about the world of Expats: my “adopted” family away from home, who was a French expat family (lovely Mr. and Mrs. Braun and their two adorable boys) and the young crowd starting their expat life. We formed friendship that lasted to this day (marriage, children….) no matter where our next assignment takes us we try to stay in touch (Claire & Vincent, Philippe & Florence, Francesca, Christel….)
Paris was a blast. Even though I was a French student, broke, and lived in a tiny apartment. I remember Mrs. Braun paying me a visit in our apartment and telling me that I will remember this apartment with fond memories. The friends have scattered around the world but our paths cross from time to time. (Arthur & Anne, David, Olivier, Philip…)
Buenos Aires: young bride and a brand new big apartment. An amazing group of friends (Leith & Eric, Elisabeth & Bill, Cheryl & Tim, Stephanie & Paul, Aida & John, Julie-Ann & Michael, Yvonne & Jeff….) we partied a lot, went on trips together and even started a family for some of us at the same time. We haven’t physically seen each other since we parted but I have fond memories from each and every one of them and they hold a special place in my heart. And let’s not forget Bryan & Anne which we will meet again in Scotland (Our own B&B in Edinburgh, we love your apartment and your love of trying new restaurants)
Scotland was a surprise post for us since we were on our route back to France when Aberdeen came up. I had a slower start there but this time the Frenchies took over the friendship. Elisabeth, Claire, Sophie (who I had briefly met in BsAs) and toward the end Aline, Sophie and Christine who I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t had stayed longer than expected…. And I’m sure glad we did. Aline the craft companion, Sophie the patient teacher and partner in shopping. And last but not least chef Christine which I didn’t mind being her guinea pig for new recipes!!!!!
Even Pau turned out to be fine. The idea of returning to France after such a long time seemed daunting. It’s hard to readjust to your own country where you are supposed to know the code but those silly codes have changed and you don’t quite fit anymore. Beside Midi Pyrenees is way out of the way from my home in the French Alps. I didn’t have time to meet a lot of new people (even if I reconnect with old pals from Aberdeen (Carole) and even Aberdeen/BsAs (Sophie) but I ended up with 2 crazy girlfriends that I was sad to part with so shortly after meeting them. Heather and Emily, we did have some great time anyway and I wish you'll be there when I come back (if I come back) to Pau but I sincerely hope that you’ll be on your next adventure.
As for Beijing, well it’s a little too early to tell but I’m sure that I will be sad to leave it behind, which right now seems an odd thought. Although I’m pretty sure of one thing: I won’t master the language but I do hope that I can reach the survival level. Well I’d better go back to my Chinese books. Until next time….

If I was writing the same one now I would add the following:

Only time will tell if we stay in contact over the years but no matter what’s the outcome I will cherish the time (long or short) we had together in this defining moment in China’s history: the pre and post Olympics years (2006-2009).

Jodi, Kim, Paige, Christine, Robyn, Sharon, May, Justine, Tac, Roshni, Isabelle… for following me in my crazy ideas: Let’s Do Lunch, Wii’lympics, Hutong cuisine, 4am rising of the Flag on Tian’anmen, Go-karting, Laser tag, etc, etc…

Even if the French crowd of friends was thinner they will nonetheless be missed too. Let’s start with my partners in crime Charge of Pekin Accueil: Christie, Magali and Hui Ying but let’s not forget Violaine my (favorite - most ardent) supporter for pushing me to publish posts on my Blog so she could have at least her daily weekly English lessons and also for bailing me out with the French newcomers when I try to ignore them (“Do I really need to talk to/meet them?”), Joelle the other Total Tai Tai and my partner in another crime diamond and/or jewelry buying. Genevieve for always sharing her “Bons Tuyaux”, Catherine for her “Bonne Humeur” and taking time from her busy working schedule (!?) to share good food and good company at our Seasons Park monthly lunch.

If life keeps us apart from each other we will at least have those memories in common. I will miss each and every one of you and I have been greatly enriched by our friendship.

"Those truly linked don't need correspondence.
When they meet again after many years apart, their friendship is as true as ever"

Deng Ming Dao

(Chinese author, philosopher, teacher and martial artist)

"The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart". Elizabeth Foley

A picture was supposed to be published here but I already packed my hard drive with all my photos on it so it will be posted later!!!!