Happy new year, both solar and lunar! The Year of the Tiger is upon us – and it’s shaping up to be an exciting year for me…
I spent a lot of time over the past 9 months thinking about my future – what I want to do and where I want to do it. I was seriously considering Thailand, decided to move to Australia, then changed my mind and will stay in China after all. Staying here might not seem like a change, but it’s a very big deal for me.
February 12th marked 6 years since I first arrived in Beijing for my study year. I spent 20 hours a week in Chinese class for a year – the final year of my degree from ANU (Australian National University). My plan had always been to take a corporate graduate position when I finished, making good money and hopefully having travel opportunities due to my language skills. When I decided to stay on in China, I still saw myself here short term – a temporary detour. I figured it was just me being young and crazy and that “one day” I would go back to Australia and be “normal” – get a job, a car, a house, (a retirement fund!) and all the things you’re “supposed” to do.
My decision to stay is based on the fact that I found my calling by accident while here. I started working with youth in Canberra in 1999 and then with TCKs (Third Culture Kids) in 2005. Nothing affects me more deeply than my work with youth, here and around the globe (yay for the miracle of skype!) I finally came to the conclusion that THIS is the one thing I want to spend my life doing, the cause I want to advance – and I am willing to give up the chance for a lucrative career in order to do so.
It’s not an easy call – choosing one thing always means letting go of another. In this case it means that separation from my family is not a temporary thing; that’s probably the hardest part. We’re in constant contact via email and it’s certainly easier for me than others here, but it still means I can’t go to my sister’s house for dinner or visit my grandparents for the weekend. It also means the lack of financial resources (and the need for plane tickets) is not a temporary thing, either – and that means my life as a whole will look very different to the way I always imagined. AND it means my already polluted accent (and spelling!) will probably continue to be americanised ;) Despite all that, despite how hard it is to feel I am saying “no” to friends and family in Australia, I am excited to be staying – excited to continue working with and for amazing kids here in Asia.
Over the next six months I’m sure I’ll share more of my plans with you, but here’s a start: I plan to move back to Beijing at the end of June followed by a month or so in Australia in August. Starting in September I plan to support myself financially by teaching private music lessons again (flute and singing) and some other part time work. That will leave a good 20+ hours a week free to spend on various youth work projects/activities.
So, as you can see, 2010 is going to be a big one!
The year started with a bang – in the form of a day-long snowfall! It was just part of the snowiest winter I’ve ever experienced. The snow was around for WEEKS and when it was finally *nearly* gone a new light fall dusted the world in white again. (I’ve attached some photos of the snow…)
At the end of January I spent a week in Cambodia where one my best friends, Christina, is a youth pastor working with TCKs in Phnom Penh. I got to see some of her world – the places she spends her time, the people she shares her life with – which was wonderful. I also went on her high school group’s retreat at Sihanoukville (on the coast). It’s what I timed my trip around and was soooo much fun! Her kids are awesome (seriously, I enjoyed meeting every single one of them). It was also nice to have a break from the harsh Beijing winter (the coldest in decades). (I’ve attached some photos from the trip – I didn’t take many so they aren’t very good, sorry!)
I was off work last week for the “spring festival” holiday. Chinese new year in China is always quite the experience – the fireworks are always both too noisy and also more beautiful than I remember. I spent the week in Beijing staying with various friends. I played a lot of games (yay citadels!), exploited friends’ musical talents for my recordings, and ate almost nothing for a few days while I was sick with a stomach bug :P
So that’s the update on me! I’ll leave you with a few thoughts (certainly not comprehensive!) on the year past.
- Being part of Trina & Adam’s wedding
- Receiving the Eagle Scout Mentor pin from Stefan
- Standing at Chang Hai in Jiuzhaigou – and the rest of the trip with the parents
- Natasha and Dante’s wedding!!!
- Recording my own songs in my own home :)
- Getting almost all my hair cut off (courage courtesy of Emily!)
- Summer Bible Study – teaching the Minor Prophets study I wrote
- Workshop at fall camp (middle school) – 50 people in a cold courtyard!
- Message on Jeremiah 1 at ReGen
- Shocking people with my blonde/orange/purple/maroon hair!
- Tribal phone conferences…
- Homeschool grad – Liz, Jerm, Matt: you are missed!
- Lying poolside in the summer sun (and the resulting sunburn…!)
- Business class upgrade on Singapore air!
- Many conversations with taxi drivers – a great way to improve my Chinese ;)
- Visits from Sandra, Natty, Rich, Christina, Rosie, the Parent People, lots of ex-Beijingers home for Christmas, Amber, Chris and Fel….
Sounds of 2009
(albums I listened to over and over this year):
- “Memory Man” and “Still Life” (Aqualung)
- “Hold On Tight” (Hey Monday)
- “Bleed American” (Jimmy Eat World)
- “Who We Are” (Lifehouse)
- “The Everglow” (Mae)
- “A Lesson In Romantics” (Mayday Parade)
- “Riot” (Paramore)
- …plus lots of my own songs I’ve recorded over the year