Monday, January 28, 2013

What was once routine, I now find novel

Nín hǎo

Is ‘hello’ in Mandarin. It’s one of the four words I know thus far. Where I come from, you smile, make eye contact and say hello to most everyone you meet. It’s what we Southerners do. Do Beijingers do the same?

I’m not sure. So for now, I walk in my ways and say Nín hǎo to most anyone who 
will look my way. I’m Southern, in need of friends and hold tight to one of the four words I know.

I have been in Beijing for only a week and can already see the propensity for being lost in translation, both in language and culture.

This week, Spanish came readily to mind as I tried to talk to Beijingers. As if that would help.

I tried to read Hebrew characters in the Mandarin characters. 

Presumptuously, I tried a few introductory English remarks to a couple of individuals I came across. Nope. One was German and another was French.

If anything, this new beginning is a season of learning and adventure. It is strange, fresh and exciting. Not a day goes by where I do not experience being utterly helpless or inept for a task, even those which were most commonplace in my life in the states. 

Like, doing the laundry. Because who can tell me which of these buttons means wash, dry, delicates, start, hot or cold? Do not fear about the Griffins having an unkempt look though; I simply make some best guesses and wait to make sure the machine turns on. Did I mention I can only fit about 10 pieces of clothing in it per load? 

Or like going to the grocery store. Because I now walk to mine, which means I budget meals for two to three days rather than a week as I did back in the states. This is because sister can only carry two to three days worth of grocery bags back to her condo. And it took me 10 minutes to decide what kind of boxed milk to purchase. And then I paid for my new groceries in the currency that I still cannot convert easily in my head. This inability to quickly convert yuan to USD nearly took my breath away when I saw my bill of hundreds of yuan ring up on the register. Oh wait, that’s 80 USD. Okay. Color seeps back to face.

And then there was that time we went out to dinner. One of Nate’s business partners graciously took us out and treated me to my first authentic Chinese dinner. Nate and I were the only two Americans in a restaurant of over a hundred people (Standout moment one). The setting was beautiful and I regret that I did not snap a picture of it. It buzzed with energy, both in conversation and the constant clink of chopsticks against beautiful ornate bowls of all sizes. Paul, Nate’s business partner, did the ordering. I kindly requested a Sprite in advance of the meal to settle my stomach from the unique smells around me. (Standout moment two because here you are served no beverage, hot water or hot tea).

Do you see how many bowls of food ended up on our table? It started with pig feet, the “appetizer” came out as the 3rd dish, followed briefly by the “dessert” and then the rest of the dishes came. Here, they bring out whatever is ready first. Works for me; I’ve always loved my sweets. Oh, except this sweet was a bean-based broth. Score. I love beans too. That’s fine.

I had a noodle-based soup that was warm to my soul. And a turnip dish that actually made me feel like I was down in Georgia eating some splendid greens. Only they weren’t green. And I didn’t hear “darling” anywhere near me.

My first week in Beijing has passed. I still deal with jet lag each day. I’ve started experiencing culture shock. I’ve started taking baby steps to explore the city. Like the time we went to Walmart and I saw the dried fish, eel and chicken feet on display. Or the other time that I got an amazing 1.5 hour massage for 10% of what it would have cost in the states. I believe Beijing will be a wonderful blend of challenge and beauty. Of pollution and beloved days of sunshine. Of simplicity and complexity.

Until next time, I’ll be working on unpacking our house and making it a home.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Expat, Unemployed and Climbing the Hill!


So I know back in October I said that I would be able to blog at least once a month moving forward. But that was my overachieving persona speaking. I failed to consider what it would take to pack my house for an international move and prepare for it.

In less than four hours, Nate and I will hop on a plane out of Chicago and embark to Beijing. Action packers are packed. Suitcases have been sat on by yours truly to get them zipped. And Hudson has been picked up for his own travel adventures that begin later this week. I cried like a baby when I had to let him go this morning. Right in the middle of a packed hotel. Didn't even care.

2013 signifies change for us Griffins in nearly every capacity. Nate is moving forward in the world of film production, in a culture where the meetings take five times as long due to translation needs. I turn 30 in three days. I'm pretty sure my meal production will take on a whole new turn. And in Beijing, I'll start carrying toilet paper in my purse at all times because...well....because it's hard to come by in public places.


I don't even like it. I'm not that great at it. But I think that's part of the point for me at this present moment of holy tension. I'm beckoned to draw near to the One who does not change.

Plans we had for ourselves this year were set aside when we made this decision. I've said goodbye to loved ones whom I can't stand out of my sight. And if I ponder on that one more second, I'll have an(other) ugly cry.

With this move, I stepped down from the corporate ladder that I both loved and hated. And with that, I've just recently started picking up the writing task to which God is calling me to for 2013.

I thought I'd celebrate turning 30 in Nashville, a city that has become so dear to me, with a small circle of friends who are even more dear to me. Instead, I will celebrate turning 30 in Beijing with my man and my dog. Now that I think of it, that is exactly the way I'd prefer it right now. To celebrate the redemptive work God has done for me these 30 years in a city that will likely remind me I'm made for something more...that this is not my home. To proclaim to the LORD His goodness for this year. To confess unto the Lord how much I love Him, to tell Him what He has done for my soul (Ps. 66:16), though I know He already knows. To be with my man, instead of us being separated by an ocean. That is the best birthday gift for this girl.

I'll post again when we get settled. For now, I'll close with some logistical items on how you can keep in touch with us!

  • For those with a smart-phone (i.e. - iPhone), you can download 'What's App' from your App Store for $0.99. It's a one time purchase fee that allows for unlimited international texting of messages, videos and photos. Send me a text if you hop on there so I'll know.
  • My email remains the same. 
  • If you'd like our address, message me and I'll send it to you!

PS - We would love your covering in prayer these last few days in the following area. It would mean so much to us.

  • Safety in our travels as well as Hudson's. He flies on a separate flight with an overnight stay in Amsterdam. We pick him up in Beijing on the 22nd. 
  • Discernment, wisdom and favor for Nate in work. He's a brave man in tackling business in a foreign environment. 
  • Sleep! 
  • Discernment, grace and wisdom for me in closing out this season and starting a new one. There's something so powerful about a new season. The mystery that looms over it sparks my curiosity and increases my anticipation for His presence.  
We love you all so much!
Nate & Shelly