Dear Emma

Hello lovely! You would have been very impressed with me this morning, taking a leaf out of your book and getting out of bed before 6 am to get some exercise. Although, to be fair my hour and a half fast walk around the neighborhood doesn’t really compare with your daily long runs and doing two half-marathons in three weeks! But hey, its a start!
The sights of this neighborhood really amaze me, the cultural differences between what is my norm and what is happening in the streets around me is huge, and I’m loving see this in action – although some of it is more than a little challenging!
Exploring things around here often makes me think of you, and your time spent in Japan. A lot of what you described to me about that time resonates with me as I navigate life around here. For a start, the language barrier is much bigger and more difficult to climb that what I had imagined.
There is a degree of arrogance in the assumption that English will suffice at least to a small degree when I’m living in what is very much an expat community, but repeatedly I’m finding that it does not, and if I want to be able to function independently here then the pressure is on me to learn Chinese. Our lessons start this week! We are having a language tutor come to the apartment two evenings a week. I’m excited about being able to communicate better in this world, but dread it at the same time, its going to be an enormous challenge and I’m going to have to work hard to get to where I want to be with this language.
When we talked about making this move, we talked about the things we could all gain from this, and learning an amazing new language was a big part of that. Its not often that a family gets the opportunity not just to learn a new language but to live among that language for such a length of time. So, no matter how hard it is, its important to keep going and keep learning and most of all I think its important to have the courage to speak up and use the language I’m learning – which is going to mean making a fool of myself many times for sure! I’ll be sure to fill you in on all my humiliations!
Yesterday we visited a market, and it was enlightening to see my children so keen to interact with stall holders and ask the price in Chinese – knowing that they wouldn’t even be able to understand the answer given but eager to take that first step in using the few Chinese words they know. I’m so looking forward to hearing them increase their Chinese vocabulary and their confidence in using it in the coming months and years. Their enthusiasm is exciting and it spurs me on.
Walking in the neighborhood again this afternoon with Ross and the kids, the reality of our new situation really started to sink in – how real this is and how long term it is. At the same time, if I think of the people we’ve met here, there are many who have outstayed their initial assignments, who have been here for years and still choose to have and raise their children here. That tells me all I need to know right now, that life here can be fantastic if we’re willing to take it on.
Miss you,
Love, Katie

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