It's been awhile since I have posted. One reason is because I have been swamped with cleaning and packing and saying good-bye to people. I feel like I have been saying my good-byes now for a month, yet people still seem surprised. To me, leaving has been inevitable, and now I'm ready to have a break from good-byes and start enjoying the "welcome backs."
However, I did get to enjoy an early "welcome home" from my younger brother Shane who is visiting and helping me leave well. He's doing a great job of embracing the culture (and his facial features and body language are carrying him well through most social situations.)
At a dinner with some friends, someone asked him, "Have you used chopsticks before?"
"Yes," he said proudly, "on Monday."
The past few days have been full ones. Shane has helped me clean, attended last dinners with friends, and kept me company while I try not to go crazy. Leaving Hengyang has not been easy.
I took great pains earlier on this month to have last meals and meetings with people only to get text messages from them the day we were leaving: "Can I stop over and visit?" or "I have a small gift for you; is it convenient for me to come over?"
Actually, the answer I scream inside my head is "NO, I'm swamped and barely sane" as I bustle around with cleaning tasks and other small "shi" or "stuff" I should deal with before leaving a region I have lived in for four years. But even as I write this, I realize I sometimes take myself way too seriously. And, most of those 5th hour self-invites were actualized and there was grace enough for the moments. I wasn't a great host or even an acceptable one in the last few hours before leaving, but I allowed most of my friends to share their last words, parting gifts, and final hugs. And now, I am emotionally beat yet I still have a sadness like hunger in the pit of my stomach.
(Last meal with my Chinese family. Iris (middle) ended up driving us to the train station at midnight. We both had some tears during the evening.)
(We did squeeze in a game of "Settlers" at a friends' sweet, little game shop.)