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“The sacrifice wasn’t in going… the sacrifice was in leaving.”

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To love a place. To hold it so dearly that one aches at the memory of it. Are we not most fortunate?

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Both quotes come from Bo Caldwell’s A City of Tranquil Light: A Novel

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It was while we were in the midst of this packing that Mr. and Mrs. T. K. Hu came calling. Mr. Hu was carrying a large box which he handed to my father. “Since you are packing,” he said, “we thought this would be the time to give you our remembrance.” My father unwrapped the package and took out a very large ginger jar. Shiny Chinese yellow it was, the happiest color in the world, and it was decorated with bright green characters which wished us long life and health and happiness and lots of money which certainly took care of my wishes.

As we stood admiring the jar, Mr. Hu took it from my father’s hands and set it on one side of our fireplace. “A pair of these jars was given us as a wedding gift,” he said. “They have always stood one on each side of our fireplace. We will keep one and now you have the other. When we look at ours, we will think of you and when you look at yours, you will think of us.” My mother put her arms around Mrs. Hu. My father took one of Mr. Hu’s hands in both of his. “Old friend,” he said. “Old friend.” He must have been misty-eyed, for he took off his glasses and wiped them.

Suddenly I found myself blinking back tears and I didn’t know why. I was counting the days on the calendar, wasn’t I? Then how could a yellow ginger jar turn everything inside me upside down? Mr. Hu, a large, merry-faced man whom I’d always liked, turned to me. “And when you look at that jar, Miss Jean,” he said, “you can think: ‘I was born in China. Part of me will always be there.”’

Fritz, Jean (2007). Homesick (Novel) (p. 93). Puffin. Kindle Edition.

The final two sentences of the above quotation, properly edited mentally to account for the fact that I wasn’t born in China, have comforted me through years of departures from Taiwan. And made me ache sometimes in America, when that part of me I always leave here, on the other side of the planet, seems all too far away.

When I try to write about leaving, my own words tend to ring false. They’re melodramatic or distortedly optimistic or just empty, dull. As the previous paragraph seems to the more I look at it.

I’m thankful that other, better, writers can lend me theirs.

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Three weeks from today, Gene and I will be on separate flights headed to the same destination, Chicago.

I think our most difficult goodbyes began today.

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This morning, our foster cats moved to their new foster home. Their crying as we got them into carriers nearly broke our hearts, but I tell myself that they will eventually adjust and be happy in their new place. It’s just a matter of time.

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A metaphor, perhaps, for the coming weeks.

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They do still need a permanent home. If you’re in Taiwan, please consider sharing the posters linked below, either online or printed out and posted in public places.

Adopt Luffy & Sweety (English)
認養 Luffy & Sweety (中文)

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Getting the kitchen ready for use took forever. It claimed buckets of sweat, a few drops of blood, and most certainly some tears.

When we started scrubbing the wooden cabinet divider between the kitchen and dining room, the contact paper began peeling off, as did the top layer of plywood. They stank of years of cooking oil, just as the pools of oil and dust on the tops of the cabinets had. After we peeled off as much as we could, the divider looked and felt clean, but also looked a mess.

So one day, we went out and bought a can bright blue paint and spent the evening taping down newspapers and painting.

It looked significantly better, but one issue remained, we’d never asked permission. Our paint first, ask questions later approach worked, however. When our very nice realtor came over to look at the stove (one burner wasn’t lighting properly), he noticed the paint and commented, “You are taking such great care of this place! You even painted!”

Pretty much anything we do for this apartment is more love than it’s had in years, the poor thing. And it’s a good space, but it needs more work that we’re going to have time for this year. But at least it’s bright on days when the sun is out. It’s shielded from most of the street noise, the neighbors are usually quiet (although there are four young hellions who make a ruckus on weekends, but they’re in school the rest of the time). It has excellent water pressure and we’ve seen only two mosquitoes so far. This can be our home.

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July visit:

The white bed frame with mirrored headboard was gone when we arrived, replaced with a new dark “wood” frame that is fairly nice, all things considered. The light wood frame was in bedroom 3, which we have since thrown away, and the headboard is now a side table in the boys’ room.

Now:

We bought the mattress, comforter, comforter cover, pillows, and standing mirror at Ikea. The cute green shelves came from Carrefour and they might be our favorite purchases of all – bright, cheap, & sturdy. We’re going with greens and blues for the apartment in the hopes it will feel less dingy and help unite all the different shades of wood veneer.

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It seemed a bit silly to buy three chairs at Ikea last week when we had five chairs already hidden away in closets here, but I think you’ll understand why these have been exiled.

Dirty, mismatched upholstery that would be difficult, if not impossible to clean, coupled with dirty wood that would be difficult to clean without damaging the upholstery. Who in their right minds decided that pale blue stripes matched with forest green brocade??

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July visit:

Yesterday:

Changes:
-Acquired desk, lamp, chair and wastebasket from Ikea.
-Moved white pleather chair in from living room. Bleached it like crazy. It still smells a bit funny (according to Gene) where one’s head would rest, so I need to crochet an antimacassar. Finally, a use for my Victorian & Edwardian crochet patterns!
-Removed dirty, broken window blinds and warping bookcase. They’re now on the roof in the excellent company of many other pieces of furniture our landlords have been unwilling to throw away. The roof? A story for another day, I promise.
-Moved Hippo’s headboard from another bedroom to act as a side table.
-Filled closets with an old TV, a bizarre exercise machine, and three ugly dining room chairs. Why did we put dining room chairs in the closet? I’ll answer that question tomorrow!

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