Last night we arrived at a friend’s restaurant for what we thought was going to be a quiet dinner with a few of our students. We climbed the stairs to the rooftop terrace and over twenty of our students began going through Charlie’s acting warm-up and performing some of their lines from the theatre productions from the past two years. Over their heads was a banner that said, “Charlie and Bekah, Love Forever.” Then they presented us with a cherry-topped cake that said “Happy 11th anniversary” and a bouquet of roses and lilies.
[Charlie, Cathy, Michael, and Melody eating Hong Kong’s famous “fish balls”.]
We were completely surprised by this combination goodbye-anniversary party. As we talked about the fact that we’ve been married for 11 years, our students have grown more and more interested in knowing more about our relationship. They love the gossip. Of course, we tell them that we were married as children. All verbatim questions: “How have you stayed happily married for SO long?” “How did you meet?” “What’s the secret to a happy marriage?” “Do you plan to have a children?” “Will you bring your kids to China?” “Who wooed who?”
I’ve come to expect such candid questions at parties here in China where they have fun putting people on the spot. The situation was different last night. It felt like we were able to have some closure. We were able to celebrate all we’ve done with many of the students who have made our time at GuiDa such a great experience. It wasn’t just the theatre students, but also the students who attended the 2011 ECO Leadership Camp in Sichuan. They even made us a photo album of our two years here. I have become such a softy, I had tears in my eyes much of the evening.
Something weird has happened to me here. I’ve had to depend on so many people for so many things; the result is that now I’m attached. There’s definitely part of us that has come alive in Guizhou. No doubt we will feel a bit out of context in the US just like we often felt out of context in China. Still, we have so much to look forward to in the U.S.
We’re excited to visit our family and friends in July, reunite with our beloved Aunt Avis (our chocolate lab), and spend a much needed week hiking in the woods of Northern New Mexico before moving to Canton, NY, where Charlie will be teaching at St. Lawrence University.
The past six weeks have been a blur of activity from seeing the final two Guizhou cities that we hadn’t yet visited (Tongren & Bijie), producing GuiDa’s International 10-Minute Play Festival, traveling to Hong Kong for the Chinese Universities Shakespeare Festival, running a lot, and now final exams. We are ready for the new chapter to begin. We don’t feel like we are abandoning China so much as we are changing how we help. I can go on and on about the benefits of viewing the world from a new perspective, but I’ll save that for later. Now, we can rest with the assurance of knowing that we’ve done all we can. Next semester it’s someone else’s turn to turn on the lights, so to speak.
Sure, there are some things we’ve left unfinished, but with only a week to go, there is a sense of completeness to our service.