Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rejoicing in China: The Best Two Years (?) of My Life

It's actually been less than a year, but it could easily be two, three, or even four based on the number of adventures and blessings I've experienced here. It's been the most intensely lived time of my life, packed with wave after wave of experiences. It's also been the most romantic, with more time dedicated to my marriage and the fun and joy of companionship than ever. It's a date almost every day, with some really great adventures along the way such as visits to Korea, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Florida, and several parts of China since my wife and I entered China. But just walking around Shanghai, just walking around our neighborhood, is an adventure and delight almost every day. The honeymoon definitely isn't over. I love it here, in spite of some things I dislike.

We came here with a sense that this is where we were supposed to be. Many of the Latter-day Saints we meet here have that same feeling. Being here feels like a mission, a calling, a destiny. For me, a wildly fun one. But coming here was a careful, prayerful decision with many factors and much time and effort. As glamorous as Shanghai is, as exciting as the career opportunity is, the decision to come was difficult. (Staying here, at least for now, has been a second, equally difficult decision that we recently made.) To come here, I had to leave an exciting job while also turning down an opportunity to return to academia. Yet the unexpected, unplanned opportunity in Shanghai won out, at the expense of many things that are important to me. We have grandchildren now, and they are not in China. My beloved backyard apple trees aren't in China either. We haven't sold the house yet, but probably need to. I love that place. We're so grateful to the great LDS couple that has been renting the house from us. (Moving to Appleton? Let us know. We probably should just go ahead and sell the home. Perfect neighborhood. And if you love the world's best applesauce and fresh apples, perhaps you too will fall in love with the two trees I planted years ago.)

Our social life here has also been richer than ever. We do something with other people almost every day. This includes lots of fun with local Chinese people such as taking them out to dinner, having them treat us to dinner, cooking dinner for them here, having them over to practice English and Chinese, meeting with them for a Chinese lesson, etc. We also have lots of fun with fellow expats (foreigners living in China) such as people from Church or people we meet here through other circles. For example, we had a super-cool couple over for dinner Sunday, and as they left nine young single adults showed up for even more fun and food. A bit hectic but very rewarding. We get to meet and associate with some really fascinating and even famous people and learn things from them we never would have learned on our own.

Professional opportunities have also been surprisingly interesting, and now I'm scheduled to speak at a variety of events in the next few months, including a plenary session at the annual meeting of a very significant organization meeting in Indian Wells, California in May and at upcoming conferences in Bangkok, Beijing, and Shanghai, with an invitation to speak in Singapore just in. The world of innovation and IP in China is pretty interesting, and a lot of people want to learn more about it, especially me. What a great place to be.

So why do I write all this? All this adventure, all this fun, so many blessings and miracles and sense of belonging, and yet there is the melancholy of being a pilgrim and a stranger in a foreign land, having left my home and much that is precious, and not sure when or if I'll return and settle down again on familiar land. How to fulfill my duties to family in the States while working here? We get back occasionally and I'll be in the States again in May and probably in the summer. But it's not enough. Just not enough.

Somehow, we really feel that we need to be here now. For years? We don't know. To stay here will mean that my wife, now on a leave of absence for one year, will have to give up the rewarding teaching job she had in the country's greatest school district, the Appleton Area School District of Wisconsin, a district so progressive that they gave full support to my wife in forming the Classical School as a public charter school focused on academic excellent, where over 400 students K-8 now flourish with exceptionally high test scores and great teachers and facilities. All those memories, all those children in the community who loved Mrs. Lindsay and greeted here almost everywhere we went, all those friends over the years, and those apples, we're away from them all over here and not sure when we'll be back, if ever. But I think we will stay here for now.

You should meet my friends here, including LDS friends and those of other faiths, or those who think they have no faith. There are such rich souls, such generous, loving, noble people, people I am proud to view as my brothers and sisters. I cannot imagine how lucky I am to have so many jewels added to my life. The other morning, after pondering the blessing of all the special friendships we keep forming here, I awoke with this strange thought in my mind: "Do not doubt that the people entering your life now were prepared and placed there by the Lord, including many special souls who will one day rejoice together with you." I hope that's true. There's so much rejoicing to do, and I'm going to need a lot of help to get it all done.

Come over and visit us here in Shanghai. Come rejoice with us. We need all the help we can get in this business of rejoicing.

6 comments:

Paul said...

Jeff, I've been where you are: expats live an interesting life, especially LDS ones. Each time we've been overseas, we've felt the Lord's hand it in, either so we could serve in a particular way, or so that we could prepare for something to come, usually both.

(And though I haven't lived in Shanghai, I've worked there, and it is a great place in so many ways!)

mormonchess said...

I really believe that we are all laying the foundation for the Millennium in all that we do as Latter-day Saints. And God loves the remarkable people of China.

Michemily said...

I do want to come visit. Hopefully when my friend from Shanghai gets married it will happen. I love that you share your experiences and love them.

Darren said...

I wondwered why you packed up and moved to China, Jeff. Seems that the Spirit was pretty clear to you and your wife. At the, let's say, advanced age of life, I think that the way God calls His children to missions is by changing their employment. God bless you and your wife in all you do for the gosepel in China. It's a mighty blessing and miracle that it's there in the first place.

Kellianne said...

I found your blog doing a search for lds expats in shanghai. My husband and I are considering a job transfer with Siemens to Shangai. We have four children ages 4-12 and are trying to weigh all the pros and cons. We currently live as expats in Germany so the expat experience wouldn't be new, but China sure would for reasons including language (my husband speaks German so it wasn't too bad coming here) and culture/food and so on. Would you be willing to email me about your experiences there, both pro and con? Best, kellianne.clarke@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Googled Expat Mormon and found your blog post. Somewhat terrified about being a trailing spouse and following my husband into the strange and unfamiliar, where there is only a small branch, away from my children and grandchild. Trying to find peace about this. Thanks for your post.