Returning Home

For fourteen years my husband and I lived and worked in Beijing, China. It was an incredible experience that enriched our lives in ways too numerous to mention. Being part of a large international school (me) and a global law firm (Richard), we were able to meet and form deep friendships with remarkable people from around the world. While many of these people have remained in Beijing, many have since returned to their original homes or have taken on other international postings. A significant number have relocated to other parts of Asia.

When leaving Beijing, Richard and I joked that these friends would quickly begin to say “Donna and Richard who?” For me, it wasn’t a joke. It was a fear.

Richard and I are currently planning a trip to Singapore to visit our youngest son who lives and works there. We have added a small side trip to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Although our time will be too short to stop in Beijing, this trip is remarkably feeling like ‘returning home’.

A large cluster of our Beijing friends now live in Singapore. A couple more live in Phnom Penh. The warmth and generosity that Richard and I have received when these friends learned that we would soon be visiting has been overwhelming. One friend, who currently lives in Vietnam, has arranged to fly to Singapore for the weekend so that we can spend time together.

Words can never express the relief and gratitude when your deepest fears are proven wrong.

While this planned trip does not take place quite yet, I will definitely keep you posted (pun intended). And yes, I will include many photos!

returning home

64 Replies to “Returning Home”

  1. What a wonderful experience you and your husband and have had Donna, especially as China is such a different culture. We visited there in 2012 and just loved it. We are planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia in the second half of the year, so I will eagerly await your photos. Thank you so much for supporting Leanne and I in our new Midlife Share the Love link party. Your posts are the quality we are looking for! Have a great week! #MSTL #midlifesharethelove

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    1. Hi, Sue- Thank you for your kind words. It is my pleasure to join in #MSTL. Thank you for inviting me!
      I’m excited to hear that you are planning a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. I’ve been to both countries before and absolutely fell in love with them. I have not yet been to Siem Reap and am greatly looking forward to that side trip!

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  2. I’ve never been to that part of the world but I’m sure your and Richard’s warmth and generosity resonated there just as much as it does in this hemisphere. I’m not surprised at all that your return has been met with open arms. Have a great trip and takes lots of pictures!

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    1. Hi, Kathy – I agree that this is the measure of a true friend. With such a large, revolving number of friends (who were also colleagues) overseas, I feared that it might be different this time. It has been absolutely heartwarming to have my fears so strongly relieved!

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  3. What a fantastic opportunity to catch up with old friends Donna. I’m so glad the feeling was reciprocated – especially the one flying in specially from Vietnam. I’m sure you’ll have some fabulous photos when the time comes and I’m expecting you to go to Gardens By The Bay because no trip to Singapore is complete without visiting there! Thanks for linking up to our #MLSTL party and I’m sharing your post to my social media xx

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  4. I so understand your sentiments. We lived as expats for over 20 years in 11 different countries and I felt I belonged to a tribe of women who would forget me. However, with letters first, and Facebook afterwards all my besties are still in touch, and we treasure our memories. Have a happy holiday!

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    1. Hi, Jo – Yes! That’s it exactly!! When living at home in Canada, I have been fortunate to maintain individual friendships as we each relocated to different places. I remain incredibly grateful for this. Living overseas was hugely tied into my job. Each year I added wonderful new friendships, and each year friends that I had made in Beijing moved on. It was bittersweet. When I left Beijing my position was replaced (by an incredible man). Life goes on, people get busy, you begin to wonder ‘out of sight, out of mind?’

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  5. Good friends never forget deep bonds. How wonderful you’ll see them again in such an exciting place. You must really be happy — this is the best time about a trip, really: the anticipation of it. Enjoy!

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    1. Hi, Marty – Thanks for the excellent reminder about enjoying every moment of trip anticipation. I often have a love-hate relationship with trip-planning. Being the resident nerd, I do the majority of the planning, researching, scheduling, booking….. Richard’s motto is “but you LOVE doing this kind of thing…and you are soooo good at it”. (Aaaarrrrghhhh!) Thankfully, we are joining our youngest son on this trip…and he is also a detailed planner! 🙂

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    1. Hi, Louise – Richard and I have been to Cambodia once before. Along with two days in Phnom Penh we spent our remaining seven days on the beach in Sihanoukville. We did feel a bit guilty about decadently lounging in the sun and not making it to Angkor Wat. This side trip is to help make up for that!

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  6. Hi Donna, You have captured the feeling of being so far away from friendships made overseas perfectly. I hope you have a safe and fun trip when you go!

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    1. Thanks, Fran. I thought that you would be able to relate! It can be difficult to return to a place that you lived and loved…and worry about how current reality differs from your memories. As Singapore and Cambodia are more neutral grounds, it has made that whole side of things much easier.

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  7. Hi Donna, I’m not surprised your overseas friends welcome you back with open arms. Will you be in Singapore for the Chinese New Year? Is Angkor Wat calling you for a visit? Happy trip planning! I look forward to your updates and photos.

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    1. Hi, Natalie – Unfortunately we will just miss Chinese New Year. Originally we thought it would be easier to avoid the CNY rush. We then discovered that we could have met up with a few additional friends if we had been in Singapore/Cambodia a couple of days earlier. And absolutely – Angkor Wat has called and we have RSVP’d “YES”!

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  8. I cannot imagine living somewhere for 14 years and not making an impact. Of course they remember you and welcome you back. I’m glad that they alleviated your fears. Have a great trip!

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    1. Thanks, Karen. Although I didn’t think that they would forget us completely — expat friendship circles are always changing as people move around the world. Friends going out of their way to make time for us has been very heartwarming!

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  9. I have never been anywhere in Asia, so this has all the makings of an exciting adventure from my perspective. I can see how adding in the element of family and friends to this trip does sound more like a home coming!
    Social media does help us to keep up in the happenings of those who are far away, but getting together is priceless.

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  10. Wow, that sounds an amazing trip! I have been to Singapore a couple of times but not Vietnam or Cambodia (though I have been to Laos). Enough to know that I love SE Asia and hope to return some day. In the meantime your photos will be eagerly anticipated. Have a wonderful time with friends and family.

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  11. When a good friend relocated to Singapore 5 years ago, I joined Facebook to keep connected to her. She loved living there, and Cambodia was by far her favorite place to go for long weekends! It’s great you’ll have your son and a friends to connect with…even if they are Ex-pats, they will have info on local places! What a wonderful trip for you.

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  12. How wonderful, Donna, that you will return to SE Asia soon, and, even better, that you will be able to reunite with old friends. I have learned over the years that long-term friendships might seem to be dwindling, once there is a chance to meet up in person, all hands are on deck to make it happen, and those fears of having lost connections, indeed, have been put aside. I am very happy and excited for you. This trip is going to be special and awesome!!!

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  13. I cannot tell you, Donna, how pleased I am for you and Richard! I must say that I am a bit jealous of your overseas travels. But I’m also so happy for you that you are reconnecting with dear friends. I think that is one of the most crucial aspects of the encore voyage. Maintaining those friendships that originated in the workplace requires special care and nurturing. I can’t wait to see the photos of your adventure! ~ Lynn

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  14. What a fantastic experience it must have been to live in China for so many years. I cannot imagine being immersed in another culture to that extent. Your return ‘home’ sounds like it will be a fabulous reunion.

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  15. Wow what an experience you & your husband had living in Beijing for 14 Years. I have never lived overseas but I have been to Beijing. I can only imagine how deep the friendships formed between the international community members would be. What a relief and great delight to know your friendships remain strong & they too want to remain connected. Best wishes for fun times catching up together.

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    1. Hi, Estelle – Thank you so much for dropping by and commenting. I just had a quick look at your website and it looks like we have many things in common (I retired in 2015, age 57. Travel is a huge passion for me.). I look forward to reading about your adventures!

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  16. Enjoy your time in reconnecting with your friends. Sounds like such a wonderful place. I’ve heard Singapore is the place to visit and that it is such a clean city. Looking forward to seeing your photos and reading about your experiences, Donna!

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    1. Hi, Terri – Thank you so much for stopping by. I am still traumatized by your post today. I deeply respect and admire your ability to make such a difficult decision. You will be very much missed…and your place will be waiting for you whenever you decide to return!

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  17. As they say, home is where the heart is. I believe you can have more than one home. It sounds like you have at least two. I’m happy for you to have this opportunity to return and also that you have received such a warm reception from your friends. Thanks for sharing your plans on #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty.

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  18. What a trip to look forward to, Donna. It’s always good to have something to look forward to in our lives. How long are you planning the trip to last? I’m guessing you will fly over the international date line? That’s something I’ve never done.

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  19. Donna, it is so interesting that going back to SE Asia feels like going home. Brene Brown, in her most recent book, writes that true belonging is the sense of being at home anywhere and nowhere. I hope you have a great visit with your son!

    Jude

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