Friday, August 07, 2009

Letters from my last column

Because I really don't have anywhere else to post them.

When you sit around as a writer and send these things out into cyberpsace, there is nothing more satisfying than realizing people have actually read them and they have had some impact.

I removed all last names.

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Sadly, your last article was the first I had read.
My wife and I just left the Foreign Service after nearly a decade, and my one year anniversary of leaving Vienna (our last post) was Friday.
You reached the same conclusion we reached, so I hope you're right!
I still get the urge to packout and go every now and then, and the thought of the 6:32 a.m. train every day for the rest of my life is too depressing to put into words, but one day at a time. Congratulations on going back - very courageous, especially if you had loved it.
Good luck with the rest of your life.
Sincerely,
Jay Currently home in NYC.

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As someone who is pondering the decision to work abroad, its been enjoyable and educational, sure to make a book.

Thanks for the column.
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I just read your last article and I must tell you how many memories it brought back. It’s been ten years since my family returned from 4 years in Singapore. Those expat years continue to have an impact on all our lives. Repatriating was difficult at times for all of us. I really believe that coming back was harder than leaving in the first place. But you have probably already discovered that pearl of wisdom!

What I really wanted to share was the wonderful influence the experience continues to impart in our lives. First, there is no underestimating the value of a world view. Second, there is the continuing enrichment of our lives. We are still in contact with many of our expat (and “local” Singaporean) friends. We’ve shared vacations and other chances to get together. There is even talk of an expat reunion in Toronto. We keep in contact via e-mail, Christmas letters and, now, even Facebook. The last couple of years have seen a slew of graduation announcements.

But I think the most lasting import is the effect of living abroad on our children. My son, Michael, was 9 when we returned to California but he was profoundly affected by the experiences he had and the friends he made. For years after we returned he would regularly see his best friends from Singapore each summer. (He is still in contact with them as well.) Michael has recently voiced how important that part of his life has been in coloring his personality, forming his own world view and affecting his life path. It doesn’t seem possible but he has just completed his first year of college.

Carly was 6 when we came back and is now a high school senior. Her memories are sometimes a bit fuzzy given her age but she still exhibits the grasp of the diversity and wonder of the world possessed by third culture kids.

So, I guess what I really want to share with you is that even though you are no longer an expat, the experience is really never over. It will enrich the rest of all your lives. Enjoy it!

Cheers!

-Susan
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Hello Mr. Paul,

I am a recent subscriber to WSJ and, unfortunately, I just read your final “Expat Life” article. I must say I absolutely agree with your “home is where you hang your hat” feeling. I’ve been living in Fuzhou for four years now with twice yearly trips back to the US, and the feeling of loss when leaving one or the other has definitely diminished.

Is there a way I can view some of your earlier articles? If so, are there any particular ones that you would recommend reading?

Regards,

Fred
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Alan,

I’ve been an expat in Shanghai for two years now, but just discovered your column today. (I guess I should be a more frequent reader of the Wall Street Journal.) In any case, I sure am sorry to have missed out on your writing and will look for archived versions of your online column. We’ve got at least one more year in China, and I’m headed back to the States in a couple of weeks to lobby for an extended stay beyond that. If you decide to write a book, I can guarantee you at least one purchase – just make sure it’s on Amazon.
-Edwin
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Hi Alan,

I don’t know if you remember me or not, but we met briefly while you still lived in BJ Riviera (I’m the guy that sits next to -- at Microsoft). I’ve enjoyed your column over the years and wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s kind of sad to see your column come to an end, but it was great while it lasted. Good luck in settling back into the US. Take care.

Regards,

Dave

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Your column resonated with me as I read it this morning here in Beijing, looking out the window of my post-modern hutong in Cathay View. Today was the last day of school at Montessori School of Beijing – they had a talent show to close-off the year. The audience was full of wistful and proud parents. There was also that sense of lives about to move into transition as fiscal years and expat years wind down for many of them.

We’ll be returning to California in August. It’s hard to convey the complex experience of a life here but I think you’ve done an admirable job.

I wish you the best in the next stage of your adventures.

Best regards,

Chris
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Hi Alan,

I just read your last column, and I wanted to say thank you for sharing your amazing experiences. I have been reading your column regularly since I was in grad school in early 2006 (I believe the story about finding fellow Steelers fans in China originally caught my eye), and I have been captivated by your stories ever since. I am sad to see column end -- but best of luck back in the States.

Sincerely,
Renee

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Thank you for the many stories. Perhaps my family and I may try the expat thing someday.

Regards,

Bob
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Hi, Alan
I am a Chinese, staying in San Diego right now. Just write to say hi and wonder if you are feeling better with your homesick for Peking : ). By chance I read your articles in http://chinese.wsj.com/gb/EXP.asp, I really enjoy in reading them so that I can feel your happiness as well as your sadness. In my opinion, your time with your Chinese friends as a foreigner in Peking, especially your band experience make you feel yourself unique and a strong feeling of achievement, which are hard to be felt in U.S. Maybe that's why you missed there so much. Haha, it's just what came to me when I was reading what you wrote, plz don't mind if u disagree. Besides, I think that you are very sensitive and observing, you should have been a very good psychologist if u r not an excellent writer. : ) Best wishes!~

-Harry
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Hi there Allan,

I am Jonson, a university student. I have read your article about Yechen in the Wall Street Journal, though I wonder why they post something like this there.

It's pretty touching as the way you describe Yechen, It appeals to me, especially at the days like now; most Chinese guys seem to have no soul. I wonder if it is possible that you could tell me the contact of Yechen, of course only if he and you are willing to : )

China is in a situation where the country is advancing but not the people, walking down the street everyday, I feel like no people are around me but simply slaves of money...pretty bad for a person like me who actually loves my home country, but could think no way to change it besides to enhance myself in all ways.

Cheers
Jonson

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Your friend Yechen is gay. That is what it is. He might have had a crush on you just as Bob to OneTwo in the movie of RocknRolla.