It is pretty widely known among the expat world that repatriation is often harder than expatriation. You sort of brace yourself for it…but never the less, you are never truly prepared for it.
It has been a difficult couple of months. We have had to prepare our house to receive our shipment of items from China. When our things were packed up in China, we knew it was going to be bad when the grand total came up to 191 boxes of goods we were shipping home. 191 boxes – that is an entire household worth of items. When we already had a house full of things the notion that we were bringing another household worth of more things into our house, gave rise to panic and urgency to figure out our house. Therefore, the first few weeks we were here consisted of us preparing our house for our shipment.
We had to go through each kid’s room and clear out clothes that were too small, toys that were out grown and even sorting and putting away boxes from our previous move. All of this is a stressful, tiring process.
When our shipment did get here – it was extremely overwhelming. Due to insurance claims, most of the boxes were emptied by moving people upon arrival. Every flat surface of my living room, kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms had items strewn all about. We worked on setting up the kids’ rooms and kitchen first…but it was still a day or two before I found my kitchen again and a few more before we had put the kids’ rooms in order.
Moving is a stressful process, but I don’t think anyone ever really grasps or knows how hard an international move truly is until they have been through one. On top of having to sort and resort and make decisions on what stays and what goes, we are all going through the many emotions of leaving our expat life and culture behind as we adjust to our new lives.
For the first four weeks, every time we left the house, my Peanut would think we would be leaving to go back to China. Screaming every time we showed up back at home. As he does not have enough words to express his emotions, he started squawking every time he was upset or angry – which was and still is quite often.
Bear still doesn’t sleep all night, still wakes up with night terrors, and still wishes he was at his school in China. Thankful, little by little, day by day he is starting to adjust, but some days are still very rough on him.
Bell has had a rough go of starting at a new school and trying to make new friends. This has been a very heart breaking challenge for her and us as making friends here is not the same or as easy as it was in China. At the international school she went to in China, almost all of the children were going through the exact same things and experiences that she was. Friends were made very quickly and very easily as they all shared so many common experiences. They all knew what it felt like to be homesick for family in far away countries, they all were accepting and helpful of each other because you had to do that to survive in a foreign land, and they knew what it was like experience each others cultures and celebrate the differences. Here, some classmates have been friends for a very long time, some classmates have never moved, and some classmates do not share the same worldly views as Bell was used to. So when Bell decided that she did not want or like to go to school it was heart breaking and even more heart breaking when she came home in tears because she had only made three friends at school. Bell was doing her very best to keep it together all day at school, but would break down as soon as she crossed the threshold of our home. Bell is slowly starting to make new friends and feel like she fits in, but it has been a huge frustrating process for her.
I am happy to report we are all doing better, but life has truly been a challenge in so many more ways than I could have imagined since we have moved back. We still get homesick, we still cry when we video chat Ayi, we still break down when all we want to do is go home to China but are realizing it won’t happen. We are mourning our culture we shared with so many others in the same boat as we were. We are trying to find ourselves in this new culture that is familiar and yet unfamiliar all at the same time.
We will make it…we are a strong family unit. We just wish it was easier…we take life little by little, day by day, and a new normal is nicely starting to appear. Praise God.