My last leaving-China-post was about moving out of my apartment. The next day was somewhat insane – between packing, cleaning, and cutting my hand open with a pair of scissors – but once it was over, there was very little left to do. My “job” for the past ten days has been to spend time with people I love, people I’m proud of, people I admire. Most days were very full, with 3-4 “appointments” – usually two meals and a cafe-type hangout, plus errands. It’s been like a summary and review of life in Beijing – so many of my favourite foods and restaurants, so many different types of transport, so many of my favourite people from so many periods of my life.
I’ve seen my beloved city from numerous vantage points, in beautiful clear sunshine and dreary grey smog. I’ve looked up at soaring skyscrapers of concerte and glass from the windows of a crowded city bus, and from the windows of a taxi flying along 3rd ring road. I’ve felt the balance of energy and quiet from the back of a petrol scooter, warm air ruffling my skirt and my hair. I’ve taken numerous different buses and subway lines; hired taxis and black cabs; received lifts from friends (and their drivers). I’ve walked, and walked, and walked.
I’ve had dumplings, hotpot, Beijing duck, sweet-n-sour, cold syrupy pear-date “tea”, Qingdao pijiu; sushi, sashimi, teppenyaki, sake; pizza, quesadillas, nachos, pulled pork, margaritas, cider; high tea, muffins, homemade brownies, waffles, icecream. Haidilao, Dayali, Haru, Peter’s, Punjabi, Maan, Annie’s, Hercules, Avocado Tree, Homeplate, Victor’s, Piazza, Baoyuan, Coldstone, and SO much more. It’s been a pretty amazing tour of the best food in Beijing! I will certainly miss all my comfort food and familiar favourites.
I’ve sat over tables full of food and talked and talked until we couldn’t believe how much time had passed. I’ve had lovely, deep, real conversations with people I’ve known 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 15 years (and everything in between). I’ve spent time with high school and college students (and those now all grown-up) who I mentored in youth group(s) over the past 9 years – and parents of those students. I’ve spent time with people I knew when I was a college student in Beiyu, when I was working at BICF, when I was working in Langfang, and of course from the past 4 years working at CCC. People I worked for, people I worked on behalf of, people I worked with, people I played with. People I’ve travelled with and people I’ve travelled internationally to see.
So many memories. So many stories. So much to be thankful for.
I’m really glad that things worked out this way – that I had to move out before leaving, so I ended up with this period of “free” time. It’s been a great way to say goodbye to this place, and this life. It feels like a book with a really good ending – loose ends tied up while leaving space for the characters’ unknown future. I’ve had opportunities to have really good endings with many people who have been really important parts of my China life. And I’ve been thinking about many more important people who no longer live in Beijing.
A lot of people have made comments along the lines of “but you’ll be back”. I hope that’s true – that I at least have opportunities to visit – but I don’t know for sure. It’s important to me that I close this chapter well, that I don’t leave things hanging. I need this to be a real ending. I need to really say goodbye, and leave. I want people who have meant a lot to me to know that, so that even if our paths never cross again, there aren’t things left unsaid. I want to be free to connect deeply in the next places I go. I want to model leaving well to all the TCKs around me who are weary of endless goodbyes.
Today my church hosted a farewell lunch for me which I guess 60+ people came to. After we ate I was placed on a chair in a prominent place and people took turns to come up and say things to me – mostly variations on thank you and goodbye. There were laughs and tears and stories and hugs. It was powerful and humbling and overwhelming. I feel so awkward in the centre of attention like that – I’m not sure how to express with my body and my face what I feel inside. But I so appreciated the kind words, and I was amazed by how many of the things shared were surprising and unexpected.
Tomorrow I have one last catch up, then take an afternoon flight to Phnom Penh (arriving 11pm local time – thankful for the grace of the friend picking me up so late and of the lady hosting me the first week, who is willing to be woken up to let me in!) My suitcases are packed and zipped and weighed (hopefully there’ll be a little grace for the handful of extra kilos). There’s nothing left to do. I really am leaving.
I have been so blessed to have a good, and real, ending. I know I’m leaving. I know this is the end of this chapter. I know everything will be different a day from now – but it feels like I’m holding my breath, waiting for “different” to hit. There’s a tightness in my chest, a lump in my throat, a throbbing behind my temples, and tension in my neck. My body realises what’s happening. My heart knows what’s coming. I just have no idea what that will really look like, feel like, be like to live out.
So – that’s it. All that’s left is to say goodbye.
Goodbye, Beijing. Goodbye, China. Goodbye, CCC.
Goodbye, friends and surrogate family.
Goodbye, people I love, and people who love me.
I love you. I am thankful for you. I will miss you.
You will always be part of my story.