In China, when we saw someone walking down the street, perusing the grocery store, or sitting down for a pizza and coffee, and realized they very clearly weren’t chinese, one of us would poke the others and try to be chill about it. We’d whisper, “There’s a foreigner over there!”
Because in China we were the foreigners. We were the ones that stuck out like a sore thumb, white as can be, blonde hair, usually traveling in a group. When people noticed us, or when people stared at us while they were over for a class, or a meeting, it made sense. Because we didn’t belong necessarily. We weren’t something they saw everyday. Or had ever seen.
I’d have moms of students, other chinese friends, or girls and boys my age all ask at least once, “What about back home? Do you miss it? Do you like China? Do you wish you were home?” And it wasn’t a shock that they asked those questions, because it was clear our home wasn’t there. We didn’t fit, so they knew we had to have had a previous home somewhere far far away.
While in the States, the amount of questions asked about “home” were significantly different. And less in number. I’d get the occasional, “How are you liking China? Has it been rough living there?” but mostly I just got, “You must be so glad to be home!”
And I was. Sometimes. Like when I was taking a shower that wasn’t freezing my hair or burning my skin off. Or when I was eating my favorite foods. Lying on a mattress that allowed me to sink into it. Seeing faces of old friends.
But mostly I just found myself wishing the both worlds could collide. Wouldn’t that solve it all? Probably not. But it sounded nice. Still kinda does to be honest.
So never was I asked, “Do you miss your home? Do you wish you were there?”
Because it was assumed that this was my home. That the States were my home and always had been and always would be. China wasn’t considered home. It was just a … well people have different ideas of what China was. But for us it was home. It was the next home on a long list of places we’ve called home.
We look like we’re from here. From the States. So of course it’s our home. Right?
Here at ‘Gleanings’ it’s like being in another world. Almost everything you could possibly need is on base, there’s rarely a reason to leave, everyone lives seconds away from you. It’s in it’s own little bubble which makes it like it’s own world. The kids scooter around and play all day, making sure to be home by dinner. I can walk across the street and hang with a friend, or take a walk through the lemon trees.
We sit down to breakfast, lunch, and dinner with new people everyday. You tell them your name, and you talk about where you’re from. It was one of the first places I’d been where I could say, “I was in China for a few years” and have someone respond with, “Oh cool, I’ve never been but I did spend a few years in Japan. I’ve been meaning to go there.” or “Where in China? Ah, we were just south of you then.” or “China? That’s so cool! I was living over here for three years a little while ago…”
It was like a breath of fresh air. Swapping stories and making friends.
But at the same time, we don’t look foreign. So again, it’s assumed that this is your home. And it is! But not in the way some people think it is. Because when you live here, this is your world. So in a sense, it’s hard to think of the people who live across the street from you or next door as visitors when they’ve been here for months.
So no, we don’t look like foreigners here either. But we are. It’s another home to write below the list of others we’ve had in the past years.
We want a house. A building of our own to call home, a “home” that lines up with the world’s definition of the word.
But at the same time … we’ve always had a home. When we were told we had to move out of our first house, we didn’t know where to go. But we found a place and it was our second home for a few years.
Then God told us he needed the house back, but not to worry because he already had another home for us. It was just kinda on the other side of the world, six stories up, in a little city of seven million. And to get there we were going to have to stay in homes belonging to others for a handful of months in order to get there. So we did. It was hard, it was frustrating, it was wonderful, it gave us so many memories and stories we’ll always carry with us.
A year ago God took our home in China back. It was time for a change, a new chapter. We didn’t have a home, a house. So we went on a road trip. Saw new sights and processed the whirlwind of homes and adventures that seemed to have whizzed by in just a moment.
We’ve been going back and forth between two homes since then. And it’s been odd. It’s been hard. But it makes me think of that time before China. When we bounced around from house to house, from home to home until China was ready for us.
So we’re just waiting until the next home is ready for us.
To some it sounds lazy, they look on at us skeptical, not satisfied with our “plan.”
But we’ve been here before, years and years ago. Before China was a thought, before there were more than four children in the family. We know how this works. We know that it does work.
So we wake up each morning trusting, and live where we are, while we wait for whatever comes next.