I have finally arrived at the place where I can begin saying "This is my last _______ in Taiwan". I have been waiting for this day forEVER. Or so it seems.
And so, as I begin my last Thursday in Taiwan, I am surprised to feel a bit of nostalgia. Perhaps it is just sadness on behalf of my kids (very possible) or perhaps this is an unavoidable human condition, Certainly it is not something I expected given that I have practically been counting the days since my return from the States last summer. Yes, last summer.
In August when we travelled to Kenting with some friends I remarked on the fact that I did not seem to be readjusting. My friend was feeling it too and thought it was just a bit of culture shock. (Culture shock comes and goes, it is not a one time event. I have learned that while living overseas.) That seemed logical and I put the feeling aside and carried on. Or so I thought.
But that feeling never did go away. It grew stronger. I wish I didn't have to say that; I wish it wasn't true. I made some friends here - local, Taiwanese friends. Each one of them are truly wonderful people. But I ended up closing them off. I couldn't understand why. I don't think I fully understand why yet. I thought I was depressed, but I don't think it was that. The best term I could come up with was "culture fatigue". I don't know if that explains anything, really, but that was how I felt. Tired of everything and everyone Taiwanese, I pretty much holed up in my house and waited for the days (months, really) to pass.
And now here I am, on the verge of going home. I can't wait. I long for familiar food and familiar sights and familiar smells. But yet there is this sadness.
Today I will be going to my kids school. There are tons of end-of-year events. A 5th grade talent show, a 2nd grade ice cream party. It's HUGE for the 5th graders because they will be entering middle school next year. Except, in our new home 6th grade is still elementary school, so Anna is struggling with the idea that her friends are moving up but she isn't. Nevertheless, she is excited about the parties. The 5th grade will have a "disco party". Anna has been waiting for this all year. Parents aren't allowed. (Of course I will be at the school WITH my camera for other events, so I may try to sneak in and see if I can get any pictures.)
Ethan's best friend is going straight to the airport after school today so this will be a final good-bye to his first best friend.
On Saturday we will bring Anna's beloved dog, Jasper, to her new family. Anna arranged it all and I was extremely proud of her for doing so. She seemed jubilant through the process of finding someone to take her puppy. But now that the reality is setting in that her time with Jasper is almost done the sadness washes across her face. It pierces my heart. The night that Anna found out we couldn't take the dogs to America with us might be the worst I've endured with Anna thus far. "No, no, NO!" she cried. "I changed my mind. I don't want to move to Boise. Can't we just move back to our own house in Virginia?" She was inconsolable. But then, as Anna does, she bounced back as if nothing had ever happened. Thinking now about what is to come my body feels heavy with the sadness.
We've found a separate, wonderful home for Ethan's dog, Jade. She will be with 2 friends of Ethan (twin brothers) in what I call "puppy paradise". She will be free to run and explore and I am sure she will love it. But last weekend as the reality set in for Ethan he sobbed. We will say good-bye to Jade when we leave for the airport. Eric will deliver her to her new home a few days later.
I long for home. But I fear the process of getting there is going to be painful. I hadn't thought of that before.