It is difficult to believe that we have already been in China for over two months. We came into this adventure, into this country, not really knowing what to expect. In some regards, that is still true—there is much left for us to learn here, and in fact, as time passes, our appreciation for how much there is still left to learn—about China’s language, history, culture, and people—only seems to grow. What these first two months have afforded us the chance to do, though, is to begin to ob
It was not until this year that I heard the expression 'Servant hearted'. I thought it was what I'd been doing for some time now, what I'd be doing for the next nine months. I'd interpreted this term at its most basic level: willing to serve no matter what the job was.
It seems that phrases get lost or abandoned as we leave childhood, even ones that defined the way we used to conceive of journeys and those accidental adventurers who took them. But when you’re entering a new culture, taking baby-steps in a far-off land, and in general experiencing many of the conditions endemic to those of a classic fairytale…certain childhood phrases are apt.
As I boarded the sleeper bus for the overnight ride to Yuanyang, a mystic Chinese township home to the most glorious rice-paddy terraces in the world, I could feel the adrenaline flowing through my hands and out through my legs. The bus was packed and humid, and I felt like I was suffocating in the sweat and body odor of those around me. But it didn’t matter.
We came to China for many reasons: to learn or perfect our Mandarin, to challenge ourselves, to be immersed in a new culture, to learn more about Chinese traditions, to commit ourselves to service, and more. Over the past five months we’ve learned so much, but perhaps the most important lessons have come, not in the form of a Chinese class, or a report written for an NGO, or even a celebration of a Chinese holiday...
China is an elusive beast. Even before setting off on a slow boat to China (it was actually a Boeing 747) our group wrestled with the idea of living in China. Expectations filled the skies as we barreled towards Kunming with a notion of what China would be like. A haven of Communism with Chinese characteristics for sure, but what about the finer things like religion and the family structure we would all encounter in our host families?