I am currently travelling, and I’m dividing up my stories into three parts. Also, I have a new camera! I have finally replaced the one that died in Buatong Waterfall (Chiangmai) last July :)
On April 26th, 2012, my maternal grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Quite the achievement! I planned a trip home to coincide with this so I could attend their anniversary party. I try to get home every 18 months, but this time it had been nearly two years. And I haven’t seen my Dad’s family in a VERY long time. I had planned to travel to Queensland this time to see my aunt and cousin and her family, but… life in Beijing got busy and I couldn’t take as much time away as I’d originally intended. I did visit my parents for a week in November when my mum was ill, but other than that hadn’t seen any of my family in nearly two years.
Speaking of Mum, she’s doing extremely well. She has a clean bill of health and although she’ll have regular checkups the doctors don’t anticipate any further problems. She has her energy back and is slowly getting her fitness back. Her hair is growing in nicely and it’s very curly! She’s never had curly hair before (except when it was permed) so I think she’s enjoying that. She has put away the wig and looks lovely with her short hair.
I started my trip in Canberra, staying with my parents, and being fed absolutely amazingly yummy food! Mum made all my favourites…soo good! A friend from church in China gave me some excellent Long Jing (dragon well) green tea from her hometown of Hangzhou, which we all enjoyed very much. I was also able to catch up with a few friends, including three I mentored during my Australian youth ministry days. It’s been 12-13 years since I first met each of them. One is married, one is a doctor, and one is at bible college. My, how times have changed!
Another fun thing I did in Canberra was attend the Degustation Dinner at the Food & Wine Club my parents are members of. 10 courses, 9 accompanying wines, and a really fun time. It was my first time to try oysters, abalone, and venison. We also had salmon sushi, tuna sashimi, thai crab salad, lobster, twice-braised veal, red wine risotto, kangaroo, and the wonderful quince tart dessert with chestnut-cognac icecream (the course my parents prepared). I also tried a bordeaux (French red wine) – another first for me – which was lovely. Another joining-the-parents thing was singing with the choir at my parents’ church; Mum had just joined and she brought me to rehearsal only to discover they were short on altos so I was coopted!
I went up to Sydney to catch up with a friend – we’re both Australian but had not seen each other in Australia before. (Funny thing is that’s not the first time that’s happened to me…) Our conversation really got me thinking about the broader view of my vision for ministry to TCKs, by training and supporting youth workers. Also, I couldn’t get over how CLEAR it was in Darling Harbour! The things we China-ites notice…. :)
The next day (after luxuriating in the sunshine) I caught a ride up to my grandparents’ place. All three of my grandparents’ daughters and their husbands came (they’ve all been married 30+ years, come January – good record!), along with me and two of the other four grandchildren. (My sisters weren’t able to make it, as they live on the other side of the country now. Usually I’m the one missing at family events so it was nice to be there for once!) Lots of cards and stories and food and wine – always a good time. It was so much fun hanging out; I really enjoy my family.
I barely saw my cousins last time I was in Australia so it was the first time we’d spent any real time together since my youngest sister’s 21st birthday 5 years ago. I really enjoyed hanging out with them! They’re pretty cool people. Hard to remember that they’re so grown up, though – 5 years ago they were still teenagers! But as with all my family, I’m blessed in that they’re the sort of people I would choose as friends even if we weren’t related. Nathan has a new used BMW which was fun to be chauffeured around in. Although he paid attention to his mum’s warnings about “precious cargo” and drove very nice and safely. Sigh. On the way to our grandparents’ anniversary party we were interrupted by a small mob of kangaroos as they jumped across the road in front of us – gotta love Australia :)
The anniversary party itself was held at a lovely restaurant at a vineyard in a valley full of vineyards. The view was great, the wine and food were superb, and we lingered over the meal for over four hours! Very impressive is the fact that 3 of the four attendants from the wedding were present to celebrate with my grandparents 60 years on. My grandfather has known his two groomsmen for 80 years now, and despite being separated by education and war, they remained friends, coming back to their hometown and raising families there. There were pictures of the three families spending time together when my Mum was small. There were lots of photos I’d never seen! It was great.
I’m always sad when people grumble about spending time with their families – it’s sad to me that others don’t have the family experience that I have. I wish I could give that same wonderful experience to everyone. It’s actually the thing I love most about my church in Beijing – I get that feeling of family there.
One last thing – do you remember the big Chinese cross stitch I did a while ago? I finished it almost a year ago. I had it framed to give to my grandparents as an anniversary gift. I was stunned by just how much they liked and appreciated the gift. And I couldn’t believe how perfect it looked in the spot they picked for it in their foyer :)
Anyway, after leaving my grandparents I stayed overnight with family in Sydney before travelling to the other side of the country to visit the very important family members I’d missed – my sisters and brother-in-law!