Fitting in--exercising your gifts and passions among those of similar feather--and being comfortable are what drives many a marketing company and advertising campaign. But, making true friends--seeking out people who can be 'family' to you--when you're many miles from your biological family is a pursuit that doesn't just happen by purchasing an iPhone (yes, I'm enjoying mine; thanks for asking), "Like"ing your friend's post on FB or pic on Instagram, or gaining popularity by taking possession of your new pad or BMW.
When I departed Atlanta-Hartsfield International and settled into the luxurious business elite bed with flight attendants at my beckon call (can I say that was a much-enjoyed 13-hour flight?), I said goodbye to loving, supportive and dear family in WI and VA (though one sister, Wendy, moved to Hong Kong recently) and many truly wonderful, generous, hospitable, and encouraging friends all across the States (if you're reading this, you're likely one of them!). After three flights, I arrived to my new home some 7300 miles from my Wisconsin hometown.
If home is where the heart is, I'd say it's not fully in China yet. Given the significant allotment of years I've spent in 2 homes--WI (22 years) and KCMO (5.5 years)--and 2 other places that have a homeliness about them given the kindred folk that I've had the deep pleasure and joy to befriend--Atlanta and China--I can confidently say that all four of these places that have given rise to family, whether biological, spiritual or in everyday friendships, will continue to be such. But, my investment in and time spent here in the Far East will only continue to increase in the foreseeable future. Of my four homes, for this one have I sold everything off and arrived at its shores in hopes of both finding home here and inviting others into a Family that knows no barriers of geography, ethnicity, language, or culture.
As I was enjoying dinner with a couple tonight, feasting on homemade rolls, soup, and yogurt (all 3 homemade!) and the fruit and honey of the earth, we were talking about what my expectations were for my time 'here.' I said that Mandarin language study, seeking out business opportunities and various possibilities along those lines--from woodwork to full-time ice cream production (okay, the latter is a pipe dream perhaps), and eventually finding a partner to share life with were the hopes in the next 2 years. My friend said,
"There's no rush for two of these, but with language, rush that! Make it your ambition to study hard; you're a marathon runner. You know how to hurt and how to set goals."
And, so as the prospect is to make friends and build up a family here of local people, it's indeed imperative to make language study--especially while single and without another full-time job--one of my top goals. I've already received offers to teach English to a few friends of friends, to build a table and turn out other woodworking pieces, and so it seems that I'll have no shortage of offers to occupy my time. But, making friends and learning the culture, buying food and getting a visa, playing sports and traveling the countryside--these everyday activities require me to know the language of the locals, and that requires time and hard work. While I'm learning language, though, it's neither independent of the above goals nor exclusive to them. For in building friendships where honor, trust, respect, loyalty, and selfless love are displayed, it's in these places where new acquaintances can become friends, and friends become family, and together both the local and the foreigner can find a home of the sort that I knew only in a familiar place and the local may never have known otherwise.