16 Candles x 2 = Some Serious Wax

So, it’s my birthday — and shaping up to be one of the best ones I’ve had in years. As mentioned in the previous post, my best friend Cory arrives from Canada today for his first visit to China.

I leave in a couple hours to grab the shuttle from Suzhou to the Shanghai Pudong airport where I’ll collect what is sure to be a slightly achy and jet lagged version of my friend. I’m super excited. Of course because it’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen my friend, but I think the excitement has much more to do with the anticipation of sharing a part of my life that despite being friends for nearly 20 years, he’s virtually unaware of.

Much like when I brought Maggie home to Canada the Christmas after we got married, it was great for her to meet the parts of my family she hadn’t met, and it was good to visit home — but the most interesting part was sharing with her a whole side of my life that she had never experienced. She only knew “Ryan in China”, and had never met “Ryan in Canada” – his friends, his hometown, his memories, etc.

Cory and I up in Huntsville. Cory hated fishing because he had never had much luck. We decided to give it one last shot and they were all but jumping out of the water.

Cory and I up at his cottage in 2004, the summer before I left for China. The fish were small, but the beer helped.

Likewise, Cory and I grew up together. We weathered those awkward and painful high school years together. We witnessed each others first loves, first loves lost (still trying to remember where we left her), first jobs, first time driving, first time drinking, first time leaving home, etc. As a guy with two (wonderful) sisters, he is the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever known.

But since moving to China in 2005 our paths have run further and further apart. While four and a half years is a relatively short period of time, it’s caused me to miss out on a lot of things back home, and caused the people I care about back home to miss out on a lot of things in my life. As much as I do my best to stay in touch and keep up with what is going on, the pictures people paint for me become less and less vivid until they resemble little more than bullet points in an e-mail, and not the life-affecting changes that they actually are.

As much as I “know” life is moving on steadily without me back home, it isn’t “real” to me in a physical sense. And I imagine it is much the same for my friends and family back home with my life here. They all know I live in China, and presumably have some sort of life here; but I am guessing it doesn’t really exist for most of them because they’ve not seen it and been apart of that story themselves.

That’s really what it comes down to, and why this birthday is more exciting than any I’ve had recently — I’m extremely excited to have such an integral character in my story back in the plot — if even just for a couple weeks.

10 Responses

  1. Happy birthday, man!

    I know how you feel about life back home not having any real physical sense of reality. In a lot of ways my memories of people and places are stuck in 2003, and I’m sure there’s of me are as well. I know at very least after my parents visited it 2005 it became a lot easier to explain things to them, because they could at least attempt to visualize it.

  2. How exciting that Cory is visiting! Word of advice I’ve learned from various parties – don’t let Cory use your camera! Haha, you can ask him about that one…

    You’re right, in more or less words it sucks to live so far apart from family, you know they have their own things going on but it’s difficult to relate when you’re not closeby or just there for support, etc. At least with you we have this blog to stay a little more connected but it doesn’t take the place of hanging out in person and seeing how you live, which was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had 🙂 I still learn a lot from you and hope you continue to enjoy living in China with your beautiful wife – see you sooner than later I hope also! Have a fantastic birthday, ge ge.

  3. Happy Birthday friend… Was searching for a chinese blog and landed on your blog..to my surprise or luck its your day.. have a great day… visit my blog too friend…

  4. Happy Birthday, it sounds like it should be a fabulous day! Coming back to visit Canada has been great, but I do wish more people could make it over the Pacific to see us. I realize that my life in China will never really make sense to them unless they can see it for themselves. Hopefully Sea Monkey will help get a few people over to the Middle Kingdom! I hope Inca is well, and Maggie and Button too, talk to you soon.

  5. Hey Ryan,

    Happy Birthday! I hope you guys have a great time travelling. We’ll be up in Dalian when you’re in Shanghai unfortunately. Anyway, a little word of advice…when in Nanjing stay away from Castle Bar! (See I knew this would intrigue you a little, so really if you’re both up for some badass random Nanjing styles, have a few then check it out). Have fun!

    • Hi Ryan,

      Happy birthday! Hope you and Maggie and doing well.
      We are waiting for a nanny we hired from Suzhou. We found her online so I never met her in person. She is waiting for her Canadian visa as we speak (write). Since you are living in Suzhou and know life there could you please tell me if I you met anyone with a chinese nanny and if they were happy with her. Here is Toronto area everyone seems to favour filipinas as nanny but we loved the idea of someone teaching Mandarin to the kids.

  6. Happy Birthday again, Ryan. Having been home for nearly 3 weeks now, getting a visit from G and visiting him, I completely understand this sentiment. As much as I describe China in words and pictures, people here will never fully understand our experience there, and vice versa.

    It’s really special to have someone from back home visiting. I hope you and Cory are having a great trip. I’m not sure if you have your laptop along with you there, but I was wondering if you were in Shanghai the day you drop him off at the airport. G is coming to meet me in the city. A mini reunion would be fun. If not, Maggie and I emailed about meeting in Suzhou a few days later.

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