December 18, 2010
The Next Chapter
Here's what I've been quietly working on since September: our family is moving to China!
It's the beginning of the next chapter of our family's life. It was written as a draft a decade ago but it didn't fit into the book of my life just yet. I decided I wanted to take my family with me when I went off somewhere to be an ESL teacher. So I added quite a few chapters about getting married and having babies and raising those babies. Now is a window where the kids are old enough but not too old, and none of our parents need us to take care of them yet. So it's time to go off and seek our fortunes! In this old/new chapter, we move to Chengdu (in southwest China), I go to work full time, teaching English in high school or maybe college, Billy mostly stays home with the kids (with some programming projects on the side that he's wanted to do for a long time), and the kids go to a Waldorf school that's in Chinese but with lots of language tutoring and teacher support. That's the plan, the outline of the chapter.
We're all taking Chinese classes right now so that we'll be somewhat ready by the time we leave this summer. We're planning on staying for 2-3 years. Chengdu is as big as New York City, but I think it's more spread out. It's in a river valley in Sichuan province, next to Tibet. The weather is like San Francisco, but with more pollution, and hotter summers. Chengdu is famous for its spicy food, panda bears, and growing IT sector. Because of the rivers, they don't have problems with droughts so they have bountiful (and cheap!) fruits and vegetables.
I'm not sure that I'll be continuing to write here while I'm in China because I don't plan to get a journalist visa and I'm not sure how sensitive the gov't is to webbles by foreign workers. If it seems like a good idea, I'll keep it up. Otherwise, I'll communicate with people in more old-fashioned ways until I'm back in the US.
For now, I will talk a little about what it's like to get an average family ready for such a journey. There's this great concept that Naifen taught me where she describes her life as "suan tian ku la" (sorry, I don't know how to type tones on a keyboard yet) which is literally "sour sweet bitter spicy" but it means that your life has all of the possible emotions in it. It's full and varied. And that's what it's like for me now. I have had every possible emotion in turn about this new adventure. I definitely feel alive! I'm so excited to start teaching again, to make new friends, try new foods, and do something this huge with my husband and children! Learning Chinese and leaving the rest of my family and friends are SO HARD! Making all of the arrangements and decisions needed are so frustrating and complicated! And I've barely begun on the paperwork! Just getting everything sorted out about Maya's name change from Eliana Jasmine Zivar Baker (a mouthful that didn't suit her once we met her) to Maya Zivar Baker (her proper name which we've been calling her since age 6 mo.) has taken us years, and we're still waiting for her final birth certificate so we can start applying for everyone's passports. I get so sad whenever there's some roadblock that makes it all seem impossible, and when the kids are scared or sad or mad about the move, I'm scared I'm going to scar them for life. I feel very secure in the knowledge that learning Chinese is bringing Billy and I closer, working hard together is great for us. I'm scared that I won't be able to handle living in a different language and that I'll be bewildered and confused every day because I can't understand anybody and they can't understand me. And it's really unsettling not really knowing what's going to happen, both in big plans and little details. And I get to go to the other side of the world! And the girls will learn a second language (more easily than I am, hopefully)! And we'll take world citizenship to the next level! And we're going to try to sell our house in this economy! And we get to have the adventure of a lifetime! And who knows what we'll do after that! Whoo-hoo! And on and on. My life is definitely "suan tian ku la".
So what do we do when the roller coaster is too crazy? We ignore timelines and deadlines, and just sit around and draw pictures and make silly, odd, engrossing projects together, like so:
If I didn't really say it before, I want to say now that I'm really going to miss my people and all of my webbling friends when I'm not here. Who knows what the chapter after China will be. Anyone want to move to Malta with me in a couple years?
September 25, 2010
Here are a few pictures from our August camping trip to Shades/Turkey Run State Park. I made it in Picasa which was very easy (yeah) but didn't give me many options (boo), so it's a little plain.