As our days in Tianjin come to a close, many memories have come to mind. This wonderful city has been home for us for the past 15 years, and we know this place. We feel comfortable here, even though we will always stand out as white foreigners. There is a familiarity with places and with people, and we feel sad to leave!
I love to look out our kitchen window and recognize our neighbors from the way they walk. And I have loved that our kids have grown up with the kids in the neighborhood. Charly and I used to join in relay races with them around the courtyard, games of tag, hide and seek, badminton, frisbee, soccer, snowball fights, helping our kids learn to ride their bikes and watching them crash into the light posts and trash cans.
After they learned to ride, they liked to ride fast, and I remember the time CJ and Joshua were racing home at breakneck speed on their bikes. Joshua crashed into a parked taxi and knocked out its brake light. I remember the kids running down the stairs to help a neighbor catch her rabbit who had escaped into the bushes. Jordan's squealing laughter sounded exactly like my sister, as she excitedly reached under the bush and pulled it out, squirming, by its ears! I remember the time the kids found a ball of yarn by the trash can and ran with it around and around the courtyard leaving a tangled mess that the gate guard made them go back and untangle.
Selling lemonade one summer caused a big stir, as people thought our family was in a tight financial situation, and we were sending our kids out to make money! We knew it was time for them to stop their little business venture when they came home and said, "Is it ok for us to take money from people if they don't want any lemonade?"
Firecrackers at Chinese New Year. Nothing can adequately describe that. And we will get to experience it for the last time in a couple of weeks...
I remember last summer as we were driving from Tennessee to Boone, North Carolina, the thrill I felt in my heart to be going back to my home as a child. It had been 12 years since I had last been there (at my 10 year high school reunion) and I couldn't wait to see it again. Growing up, I thought Boone was the perfect place to live. I loved the mountains, the weather, the people...
And now, I think Tianjin has been the perfect place for our kids to grow up. We love the people here (both our Chinese and foreign friends), and it is hard to imagine anywhere else having been our home like this place has. When we first arrived, it all felt so strange and different. Now it is home.
We will have a new place to call home when we move to Lanzhou in a few weeks. (We are still looking for that place!) And we will carry with us sweet memories from Tianjin very close to our hearts. We are thankful that God chose this city to plant our family, and for the relationships He has blessed us with here.