Wednesday, November 2, 2016

We Love America!!!!

Who needs a pillow when you have a brother's head?
We've been back now for three weeks, and we're soaking it in--the time with precious cousins, the predictable traffic patterns on the road while driving, grocery stores that have anything you could dream up all under one roof, being able to get multiple things accomplished in one day....we're loving it all and thankful beyond what words can express.  We are in a borrowed house, driving borrowed cars, and feel unbelievably loved and cared for by the generosity of more people than we can count.  It brings me to tears just reflecting on it all!  And of course, we've had some really good laughs along the way as we all adjust to culture shock.  Until you've lived overseas, you can't imagine how much the U.S. changes in just the two short years that we're away.  We come back to so many things that are different, and the funniest part is watching Noah in particular as he tries to take it all in.  So here are some stories so you can share in our laughter...

Yea for California beaches!
When we first arrived in the US, we landed in the LA area of California for a wedding.  We spent about 5 days there, getting over jetlag, visiting friends, and I'll admit, doing some serious shopping.  (Karis has grown 5 1/2 inches in the past two years, so she was down to 2 pair of pants that she could wear--although I'm now seeing we probably could've gotten away with wearing a few of her high waters, as the ankle length is so trendy!)  Our second day in country, we were at a beautiful park with friends when a caucasian woman walked past with her dog on a leash.  Noah asked me if he could ask her for permission to pet her dog, upon which I responded in the affirmative.  He took off jogging toward her, then turned around and ran back to me, asking, "Um...should I use English?"  It was awesome.  I assured him that yes, he should use English (rather than Chinese), and he was thrilled to jog back and make a new friend.

The next day we were at a mall courtyard area and the kids were exhausted from the jet lag (13 hours difference--so pretty major to adjust to!).  We were eating lunch when Noah put his head down on the table and asked if he could lay out on the empty chairs next to him to take a short nap.  I told him that he could not, and he responded with "Gosh.  I wish I was back in China."  When I asked him why, assuming that he was going to explain that then he wouldn't have to deal with transitioning to the new time zone, instead he answered, "Because in China you can sleep wherever you want!"  We all laughed at how insightful this was, as you truly see people sleeping in all kinds of public places in China without any shame or embarrassment over it!

State Fair of TX
The following day when I was waiting in our hotel lobby for our friends to come join us so we could travel together to the rehearsal dinner, a group of young adults walked in together.  They stood in a huddle, visiting with one another, when one of the guys looked over at me sitting on the couch (a good 8 to 10 feet away from where they were congregated), and asked politely, "Oh!  I'm sorry!  Are we crowding you?"  I nearly fell off the sofa from the shock of it!  Oh, Buddy.  If you only knew what my definition of crowding is after living 7 years in China where personal space is NOT a known concept!

Pumpkins in our neighborhood
So what are some of the things that we're not used to anymore?  Water fountains!  Every time we come back, the kids are fascinated by water fountains, stopping at every one we pass to grab a sip of water.  Wearing shoes in the house!  It's still not unusual for the kids to forget that they don't have to take off their shoes when we enter a home, so they usually drop them at the front door as soon as they come in.  There have been a few times where both Hudson and Noah have dropped to their hands and their knees to start crawling across the floor to grab something they've forgotten (not wanting to take off their shoes).  It's pretty funny to hear the older kids reminding them that it's okay here to actually wear your shoes into the house to get what you need.  Drinks are too cold!  We're all not used to such extreme cold temperatures in our drinks, preferring our usual lukewarm water, hot teas, or only slightly chilled soda.  Church here is an actual building!  On our first Saturday back in town, Noah asked, "So tomorrow's Sunday, right?  Who's house are we going to for church?"  We all chuckled as we reminded him that in the US you go to an actual building for church.  He was excited!

weekend trip to Broken Bow, OK with cousins
It's also fun to see the kids processing some deeper questions that the change in culture brings up.  When we were in California, we observed a huge number of people out exercising on a regular basis.  The kids were shocked at this--especially at how little clothing the women were wearing compared to what is normal in our super-conservative community in China.  When Hudson first noticed and mentioned in the car how many people he saw out exercising, we discussed how physical appearance is important in that part of the country and how people in America typically value exercise and physical fitness more than people do where we live.  His next question prompted more great conversation when he said, "So, is it good or bad that people exercise so much more?"  It was a neat chance to talk together as a family about how valuable it is to be healthy and active, and yet how easy it is to take it to an unhealthy extreme and have that or physical appearance become an idol that can control you.  I wondered if those observations and questions would have come from my nine year old if he didn't have the cross-cultural comparison to make.

Halloween Loot!
Our time so far has been spent visiting friends and family, and we have two more months of that to look forward to!  I'll include some of our favorite pics of the memories we're making...