365. That is how many days I have been away from our home. Exactly one year ago, my children and I left Beijing on what we thought would be a few months of Ordered Departure. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, The US State Department, in its infinite wisdom, ordered the evacuation of all minor dependents, meaning leave China immediately. As we have 2 children, we started what was supposed to be a relaxing Saturday by planning for the kids and I to leave Post. We had 3 days to procure tickets, which were increasingly difficult to come by, pack our allowance of two 50lb bags each, and say goodbye. My husband would remain at Post as an essential employee. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would be 271 days before we would see each other again.
On February 4, 2020, we left my husband standing in the Beijing Airport Terminal while we boarded our first of 3 flights. 24 hours later (yet still the same day), the kids and I landed in Charleston, South Carolina. Exhausted is not the word for our condition. Physically and emotionally exhausted is a beginning description. Distraught, traumatized, permanently emotionally scarred are probably better.
I will be sure to post about our evacuation experience at length in another post, or maybe even several. About our moves, our lockdown experience, and how our lives went for the last year. And another about our return to China and our quarantine experience. Right now, I want to talk about how we turned this absolute shitshow around, and have made what was possibly the worst experience of our lives into something memorable, and positive.
February 4 is a date which will live in infamy in our household. Last year, it was a miserable day filled with emotions that we have yet to fully process, and trauma which will continue affecting our lives for years to come. BUT, this date is now also a family holiday. Instead of dwelling on the negative, we chose to focus on the positive. Today we will celebrate. We are together. We are healthy. We are stronger.
We are currently sitting in Day 20 of a 21-day mandatory hotel quarantine in Guangzhou, China. We are slowly, but surely, making our way back to our home in Beijing. We should have been able to return this past summer with the rest of our FS colleagues and their families, but that is a story for another day. At the very least, we should have been home 2 months ago, as was our backup plan. But, here we are. And we are still choosing to be happy.
We are fortunate enough to be able to have food deliveries to our hotel. My husband has ordered a cake. It looked good in the picture on Meituan, at least. Slightly disappointing in real life, but CAKE and it came with a crown. There are no expectations for the day other than our 6th COVID test since our journey began 3 weeks ago, and online school for the kids. There will be artwork. There will be fun and games. There will be no bedtimes, nor limits on screen time. This is the best we can do for now, but I am hoping that next year our situation will allow for a bigger event. Maybe a special meal out, maybe even some skipping of school (which is not something that we normally endorse). For now, this will do, and we will smile and laugh and eat cake and enjoy each other’s company.
And we will have a Happy Evacuation Day.
(*Sorry for the late post; more photos to come. Our hotel internet is not playing nice currently.)