It felt familiar. Buildings full of academics and classrooms. A university campus. This last week was my first week back at university. I’ve started a MCouns (Master of Counselling) degree at the University of Auckland. And it feels like being in the right place, doing the right thing. Even if its a kind of daunting thing with the hundreds of pages of reading a week, the hours of practical work and the whole matter of being filmed while counselling so that I can analyse my work.
It is about a year and two weeks since Andrew and I told the Congregation of the Good Shepherd that we would be leaving Beijing. There are long and short versions of that story but the short one goes like this: we do not live in China any more. There are good things and hard things about that.
We live in New Zealand now. There are good things and hard things about that too. Andrew has been the Vicar of All Saints, Howick for nine months now and since October I have been the Priest Associate working with children, young people and their families in the same parish.
Some things that are true about the past year:
Reverse culture shock is a real thing.
I still sometimes rehearse conversations about utilities and other things in Mandarin before I make a phone call. This is not actually necessary. Old habits die hard! I do it less than I did six months ago.
We are very glad to see friends and family. We can read all the ingredients on labels in supermarkets. The air is clean. The sea is beautiful.
Beijing was large and lively and flat and easy to bicycle around. Good friends live there. I loved being a pastor at the Congregation of the Good Shepherd.
When leaving New Zealand four years ago we did not know if we would make our home here again.
I am homesick, sometimes, for Beijing.
I am making my home here in this new place.
A friend gave me the tile pictured below. It is helping me make sense of this season of transition. Home is this place, where I put things on the wall and vacuum the carpet and chop the vegetables.
We share our home with Mike Crudge. He’s smart and thoughtful and we’re glad to have an ecumenical vicarage. You might enjoy his blog.
I got accepted in the MCouns programme and the St Johns Trust gave me some scholarship money and I am studying counselling and that feels good and right.
We got a dog a week ago. His name is Charlie. He came from the Humane Society. He is scared of hands and feet if they move suddenly or belong to strangers. We are helping him grow in confidence and trust. We love him already.
It is hard to imagine that a year ago it was spring in Beijing and we were emerging from freezing temperatures and two weeks of fireworks and didn’t know what or where was next. It has been quite the year.