“I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Lucky just to keep afloat”
(the inimitable Split Enz)
That’s what came to mind when I typed the title. I think the association was more with the six months than a leaky boat because I have to say that it has been surprisingly easy to keep our heads above water in our first six months here! We have experienced so much grace and generosity (do I write this every time I write an “anniversary” post? ) People go out of their way to make things easy for us – whether it is the entire staff of the Boya Club trying to collaborate together to explain to me where the hair stylist is and when he is coming back with a combination of mime and my occasional recognition of a Chinese word, to the wait-staff who patiently read my card about being a coeliac and vegetarian and then try and ensure I receive food that will be safe to eat.
There are some leaky boat moments. Having coeliac disease in China is very tricky. There is gluten in soy sauce so even if the kitchen staff remember to hold on the soy sauce in the dish, it is easy for the next person to splash some on as the plate goes to the table. Cross-contamination is an issue. I ended up quite sick last year after several inadvertent gluten-ingestions. I stopped eating out. Became more paranoid about even gluten-free flours and their sources in case there were issues in the manufacturing process. It is not a relaxed nor sociable way to live and can make travel feel quite stressful. Perhaps sometime I’ll post a completely off-topic entry on “living as a vegetarian coeliac in China).
There are also moments when I feel like a toddler. With a few words of language. Pointing and not understanding at all what the grown ups are talking about. That can be frustrating. But being child-like also has the beauty of being caught up in moments of wonder. You should have seen me on the first morning of snow. It was just a few days ago, required a little bit of Government help after no precipitation in Beijing since late October but it was white and powdery and I had to look at everything. Snow on the lanterns and the branches. Dog footprints in the snow. Snow on my hat. My first snow-ball. Endless looking out the window at the snow falling. At the golf course transformed by the snow. The giddiness!
Another lovely thing that happened recently was receiving a parcel of books from Liberation Theology Lutheran. Kristin had a draw for a book on her blog, and I was the fortunate recipient. She added some other treasures to my parcel and it arrived on Sunday. Virtual community and the connections sustained by email, Skype and Facebook take on a whole new importance in this place where Andrew and I are one of a very small number of mainline denomination English-speaking clergy (we know of two others in Beijing, both members of the congregation working full-time in other capacities). Thanks Kristin for the books and for your Blog and to all the members of the RevGals blog ring who bring voices of faith and collegiality to my RSS feed!