Hello. We met Stella, a Chinese student at Virginia Commonwealth University, three Novembers ago at the International Student Thanksgiving Dinner on the VCU campus. We were table hosts, among many other Americans sponsoring students for dinner that evening. She, her Japanese friend Junko, and another student from the Congo, Gloria, were our guests (and soon-to-be-friends).
After that, we shared many other local (American and international) customs and events. A high school football game. Food at all sorts of Richmond restaurants. Tacky Lights Tour. Christmas. Birthdays. Sleep-Overs. Graduations.
Having lived overseas ourselves, we are so thankful for the deep friendships we’ve known in those places. We hoped to be that kind of friend to these precious girls. As always, we received back much more than we gave.
Goodbye. The three years since meeting Stella flew by, as time does. She graduated this May from VCU with an accounting degree. This summer she plowed through the exams for a CPA. I am so proud of her. This beautiful, smart girl. How hard she worked. What joy we shared over her successes! She waits now for the results on the last sections…and she says her goodbyes…for now.
When you leave one life and return to another, there are massive amounts of details to manage. This last day of her stay in the US was, of course, such a day. I was the driver, and she ticked stuff off her list, including all the last’s of closing down an apartment and distributing stuff to saying goodbye’s to friends. Including one who’s having a baby in the next few days. Those goodbyes are hard for all of us – the just-not-quite-long-enough stays for all the hellos we want to say.
One of our favorite places to go (Stella, Junko, Gloria, and me) was Shyndigz – an unbelievably fun and yummy dessert restaurant in town.
Stella and I celebrated her finishing up closing down life here with a visit there. Stella’s favorite is the Nutella cake, but alas it wasn’t on the menu. We managed a close-second in the chocolate salted caramel cake (shown below – blogging on Shyndigz soon).
Shyndigz Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake – Foodspotting.com
We grabbed that piece of cake at Shyndigz 2Go, to eat later, and made one last food memory at a restaurant where she’d never been before. Cracker Barrel.
We didn’t eat the whole time we spent time together these three years, but we tried! Food sure has its place in friendship. That’s what Stella is looking forward to most in returning to China – the food. I remember, myself, the amazing food-with-friends experiences we had living in North Africa. Such sweet and satisfying memories.
Hello. This morning, riding east toward the airport with Stella and her bags, was beautiful. The sky came alive with the sun’s rising in deep pinks and oranges. It’s going to be a good day…even as Stella leaves us for now, and says Hello again to her family, friends, and life in China.We will meet again, Dear Friend. The Hellos are worth the heartache in the Goodbyes. God be with you until we meet again – either here, or there…
Postscript: “I know that You are near” – the line of song that came on when I started my car, leaving Stella and feeling sad. God is kind.