Four Ways to Keep Your Faraway Friends

When you’ve grown up with someone and seen them practically every day of your life, it’s a bit hard when you have to move away. You can’t do spontaneous things like going out for coffee in the afternoons or going shopping for a couple hours or even going on a walk like you used to. Instead, you have to balance busy schedules against the rigors of different time zones and different lives. You may even start to wonder if it’s even worth it to keep your friendships going–if perhaps they’d be happier if you just bugged off and let them keep living their lives without constant interruptions from you reminding them what life used to be like.

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The rose bushes are always greener on the other side of the fence.

Fortunately, friendships don’t have to peter out with distance and changing lives. There are still some things you can do that will help your friends far away feel like they’re still connected with you–that you still care.

First, be proactive, whether you’re the friend that left or the friend that stayed. Don’t assume that just because they’re your friend that they can do all the working of keeping the friendship together, or figuring out all the wonky time-zone differences, or figuring out your schedule. If you work together on this, it will also have the bonus that you talk more!

Second, try to make things easier for them to call you. If there’s a foreign country involved (no, we’re not starting any wars or anything!), chances are neither of you can just call from your phone like you normally would. Try to get free apps like Skype or WeChat (which is huge in China!) that will let you talk without one or the other of you spending a boatload of money every time you get lonely. Even $0.05 a minute adds up pretty quickly.

Third, (and this might be the hardest), keep thinking of things that you can talk about. If you’re anything like me, when something interesting comes up that you want to talk about with your friends, it may be a couple days before you get to calling them. And by that time, it might have disappeared! And if I can’t remember anything I wanted to talk about, I’m pretty much the world’s most boring friend. Conversations devolve into a series of “How was your week?” “Fine.” “Anything exciting?” “Nope.” Read a thought-provoking book, or talk about something interesting you read in the news, or even discuss funny YouTube videos. Or, you can remember the interesting things that happened at work that week, like the time your student said “shit” in class without knowing it was a bad word. (He was using it to talk about dog poop).

Fourth, do what you can from a distance to make your friend feel cared about still. (I’m really bad at this one too.) Send a postcard, or an email if a postcard is too hard. Maybe write a letter, or, if funds allow, send a small box. If you feel up to it, visiting is always appreciated. Just think of it as your only chance to see the world.

So, if all your friends have moved away (or if you’ve moved away), your highschool habits of forming friendships just aren’t working anymore, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever make new friends again, or if you’re doomed to die friendless with hot ears from talking on the phone so much, think of these tips. Long-distance friendships are possible–though hot ears are pretty much inevitable.

Daydreaming in Pictures

I miss America sometimes. Living in China has been great, but some things you can only get at home.

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I miss the countryside–well-kept homes butting on to freshly planted fields, tall corn nearly ripe for picking, clean snow for sledding or skiing.

White Christmas 2014

I miss seeing the seasons in action as plants come up out of nothing but a tiny seed and some warm earth. They turn into beautiful flowers or firm vegetables, swelling with their abundance of life. And then the cold comes and they die, returning their fertility to the soil to prepare for the next year’s cycle.

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Wasn’t he cute?

There’s a beauty in the earth where you grow up. Roots, though not the plant kind, form to hold you to it. And when you move away, they still call.

And in China? The countryside is gray (though it probably doesn’t help that it’s winter). Skyscrapers loom over everything, abandoned and alone. They were never finished, and probably never will be.

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There’s still some beauty, of course, even in the midst of winter death. But it’s all so bleak!DSC_0577

I’m glad I can be in China, learning and growing. It’s been a great place to be. But right now? Right now, I want to see a beautiful golden field that’s well taken-care-of. I want to see wild lonely spaces that tear at your heart by their untouched beauty, with no skyscrapers in sight.

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I want to breathe clean air that’s not tainted by the smells of sewers and garbage and exhaust. I want to be able to talk to everyone I see (if I wanted to, which….knowing me, I probably wouldn’t). I want to see the beauty that’s everywhere in America.

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And most importantly? I want to be home.

7 Things I’m Missing in China

Life in China so far has been wonderful. It’s amazing how nice having a place of your own, even when it’s up four flights of bare concrete stairs, can be. And Jared’s really loving his desk (as different from MY desk–generally covered with papers). We’re both beginning to feel at home. We have great friends, a wonderful church, and a lot of great food close by. That said, there are still some comforts of home that I, at least, miss.

1. A piano.

And preferably, a pianist to go with it. (Just kidding–though a live-in accompanist would be nice.)

Can you say “essential for sanity?” There’s something about having an instrument out in the open, waiting to be played on. I don’t know how I’m surviving right now without a piano. Jared says that surely the school has one–but it’s just not the same.  One of these days, I will have my own piano, I promise!

2. Real hot (drinkable!) water in the kitchen sink

It’s gotten to the point where when I watch videos of people drinking water straight from the tap or doing dishes in warm water, I’m shocked. I want to tell them it’s dangerous to drink the water, and then I remember–in America, it’s okay to do things like that. You’d think 20 years of drinking straight from the sink would stick with me far more than two months of not being able to, but hey. I’m weird that way, apparently.

And just for the record, dishes do not get as clean in cold water as they do in hot. Ask me how I know.

3. A dishwasher

I know, I know–who needs a dishwasher if you actually have hot water in the kitchen sink? But it’s so much easier to put silverware and stuff into the dishwasher and run it. You guys who have these things are so spoiled.

4.  A bathtub

There’s something so relaxing about being able to sit in a tub of warm water. For now, we’ll have to be content with our “shower bathroom,” but one of these days I’m actually going to live in a house with a bathtub in it.

At least I don’t have to SCRUB the bathtub right now–there’s a bright side to everything, right?

5. Books. Actual, physical books.

Kindles are nice–they allow you to read practically anything, most of it for very little money–but they don’t have the same feel as a real book that you can turn the pages of and see sitting on the shelf and feel the weight of it. It’s just not the same.

6. A full-sized oven.

There are so many things you can cook  in a toaster oven; sadly, all of them are small things. Cookies, squash, pizza–all bake fine. But roast beef? Not a chance. I’m not sure how we’re going to get anything even approximating a roast turkey cooked for Thanksgiving (besides the fact that turkey is not a Chinese bird).  Any suggestions?

7. A study for Jared

What Jared wants more than anything is a room all to himself, with books, a window, and a desk for him to write at. Perfect lighting too, of course.

 

What are all you cushy readers back in America wishing for?

 

Joining 7 Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum.