Although I tend to focus on the professional/job aspects of our move, there is also the personal side of where we will live, the foreign community (if there is one; there wasn't at all in Jiaozuo!) and what kind of lifestyle to expect. After seven years in China I know a lot more what makes life easy (and hard) and how much hard we can tolerate without falling apart. I brought Kristen with me on this trip so she could also get an impression of the city/life there and because she already has friends living there.
Where to begin? Overwhelming. Amazing. Dream come true? That is still to be determined, but let me tell you this visit really blew me away. We spent the weekend visiting with some contacts from our Thailand conference and quickly found that we had many overlapping friends. Kristen even saw some teens she had met at a camp two summers ago. To say we both felt right at home would be an understatement. There are multiple fellowships that meet on the weekends, and we visited two of them. This may not sound like a big deal but in this city we would be able to go to church every weekend. That has not been feasible for us in seven years. I hope this doesn't sound wrong, but to be able to take church for granted again would be an incredible blessing.
This city is at a high elevation, so it is pretty cold there (oh, yeah, I love the cold... not!) but I don't see that as a deal breaker thanks to my handy-dandy Land's End parka (lol). Shortly before we landed we flew over the most amazing, and highest, mountains I had ever seen. It was spectacular. I didn't get photos of the tallest peaks, which really looked like they were right outside the window of the plane, but this photo will give you an idea. I was conscious of the high elevation, looking for signs that either of us was not tolerating the thinner air, but we both did fine although I was huffing and puffing a bit more on the stairs.
It is a small city (by China standards -- 2 million people!) but has a higher than average western influence and expat population for its size. That is a great combination for us...not too big, but a foreign community and some comforts. We did our part to improve the sales at Starbucks and some local burger and ice cream places. (Interestingly there is no McDonald's there -- not a big deal to us but a little odd since McDonald's seems to be everywhere in China.) Even though our address is Beijing, we have no access to foreign food day to day so we take advantage when we can. The only drawback I see is that eating at those places may be a little too tempting, but then we would probably take them for granted after awhile as well.
We were also able to visit a couple of apartments to get an idea of what is available and at what cost. Another box with a big checkmark: apartments are slightly more expensive than where we currently live but probably about 50% larger. While we don't really need a lot of space for the two of us, a little more space would be appreciated. We also quickly noted the very comfortable inside temperature despite the date. We found out that the central heating stays on for six months, a definite plus. Interestingly one of the apartments had a cooking porch -- we'd feel right at home there!
Transportation would mostly be by bus though taxis are pretty inexpensive when needed. The city is not very large and getting around is fairly easy, and most places are pretty centrally located. It seemed pretty clean and, as in most Chinese cities, we felt quite safe. During our visit we stayed at a youth hostel that was centrally located and very reasonably priced. It was, however, in the midst of some major remodeling, and I don't think they realized we had a reservation. So it was a bit dusty and we were the only guests, but the staff could not have been nicer or more helpful so it was pleasant if a bit strange. Strange doesn't really phase us anymore anyway.
I don't know whether this city will be our next home. I know we would both be quite content if it were, and even if it isn't we really enjoyed our visit to the Frozen Tundra.
About This Blog
Part documentary, part family chronicle and part personal reflection as I try to sort through the ups and downs, the joys, heartaches and surprises of our life and work as we follow the path that God has set for us here in China!
Kristen to continue to adjust to college life and find good friends.
Donna to have wisdom in planning and implementing new programs for the youth and for financial provision to cover our expenses.