It has been 308 days since we left China and landed in the good ol’ USA. You would think that would be plenty of time to have made the transition back to our home state of Indiana, but we’re still definitely in transition mode. China was the only home our three children ever knew, and it was my wife’s home for 19 years—almost her entire adult life. For me, I started my adult Asian trek back in 2002, 13 of those years were in the Middle Kingdom.
Keeping China as a part of our lives is important to us. It can also be a little work and something that can easily be forgotten in this fast-paced world of school, sports, screens, and social media. There are several ways we’ve been able to keep our China connection in this land of Hoosiers, one of which I would like to highlight.
When I tell people I moved here last summer from China, it’s often met with a perplexed look as if I was growing horns out of my head. I kid you not. I suppose it’s not common to tell people here that we used to live in a Chinese city of 13 million. Despite that, we have found people who are intrigued about our former lives overseas and in some cases have invited us to speak about the Chinese culture and what our work used to entail.
We’ve made presentations to family members, longtime friends, like-minded groups, and even a Chinese community. Each presentation has required us to reflect on our previous lives, look at dozens and dozens of pictures, and watch heartwarming home videos. It has been difficult at times to remember what our lives once looked like, but it has been good. We are thankful for the assortment of questions we’ve been asked and for the occasional person who has expressed a desire to serve in China or another country.
Our children have grown accustomed to the talks and have gotten involved at times. Having them dress up in their Chinese attire, provide simple introductions, and answer questions has helped them remember China and share what is good about the nation. We can talk about what we enjoyed, what we miss, and what we hope to have again.
We especially like how the presentations give us an opportunity to dispel misunderstandings and misperceptions of China. People are often surprised to hear how safe we felt in Tianjin. I felt very comfortable walking in virtually any part of the city regardless of the time of the day. We also enjoy sharing how the Chinese are very proud of many aspects of their culture and history. I came across countless Chinese people who were extremely proud to be Chinese. I grew up believing that the Chinese must be unhappy due to government restrictions and a lower socioeconomic status. This is definitely not what we saw. Additionally, although China-U.S. relations haven’t always been rosy, we came across numerous Chinese who spoke well of America and treated us with a great deal of respect.
Although life in southern Indiana is quite different from what we used to experience, it is possible to have China continue to be part of our lives. The sounds, smells, and sights are certainly not what we used to experience, but through a few presentations, we’ve been able to preserve a small part of our China lives. We are truly honored to be in this position and grateful that there are so many who are curious to learn about the Chinese church and society.
Have you left China in recent years? What's it been like for you? How have you kept China in your life? Write and let us know—we'd love to hear!
And if you are curious about some of those misperceptions people have about China, read "When Tea Meets Coffee" from the 2017 spring issue of ChinaSource Quarterly.
Image credits: Great Wall by Mark Wickersham; Indiana, public doman
Mark Wickersham is the middle school principal at Evansville Christian School in Southern Indiana (United States) where his wife, a 19-year Middle Kingdom resident and ESL instructor, corrects his grammar. Mark taught in Indiana and South Korea before serving as a coach, teacher, or principal in China for 13 years. …View Full Bio
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