A couple of posts ago, I hinted that I wanted to go back to China. Particularly, with the same arrangements I had last year. The deadline for applications feels like it’s coming sooner than it actually is, but I think that’s because of my indecisiveness to attend again. On one hand, I think it would be great to go back and see some of the teachers and volunteers, maybe even some of my fellow campers. Part of me feels like going back sort of makes the trip less special because I’ll always have the memories from last year, and I’d have to readjust again this year. Nonetheless, if I do or don’t go, I’ll let you all know. For now, let’s take a look back at some tidbits from Beijing!
Before my trip, I wondered if the people of China knew the enormity of their history and how remarkable this is for everyone else on the outside looking in. Thousands and thousands of years of stories and monuments are still marvelously preserved. That, in and of itself, is profound. Yet, I somehow thought that Chinese people just see this passively and that’s not in a bad way. Merely, China is so rich in history that it’s just part of everyday life. On the second week of my trip to Beijing, we spent an afternoon going through Qianmen, Tiananmen Square, and Forbidden City. On our way there, I spoke with my class’ head teacher and asked, “So, how old are these places?” Her answer gave me an insight into the mind of a Chinese person living among such historical places. She said, casually, “Oh, not very old. Maybe five or six centuries.” Maybe five or six centuries. Let that sink in for a moment. Mind you, let’s compare that to the United States which, as a …
I’ve always believed that the people we meet, circumstances we find ourselves in, and how we come out of it all are no accidents. I don’t believe in coincidence; I much more like the idea of fate. When I look back at who I’ve met, what I’ve been through, and when it all happened, I take away little bits of new understanding or a rejuvenated outlook on life. Call me a sap, but that’s how I think of the people we meet, even if it’s just a passive, small wrinkle in time. This is how July came and went for me: Imagine for a second, you’re in a completely new country. You don’t know a lot of people. Yet, you’re sharing the same experiences, the same space, the same environment. Presumably, you are forced by the universe to connect with each other. And, you do this without question. I mean, you can’t question the universe, because nature controls us all anyway. It takes a bit, but you do it. The second that you finally feel like you’re …
I’ve sat on this post for a while, thinking of the right way to describe it all. I even looked through my fellow campers’ photos to see if that could draw some inspiration for what I’d say. I still don’t have any words, just that The Great Wall of China has to be experienced. It has to be. You have to live through it at least once. Photos, words, none of what I’m attempting to do can even compare to the magnitude of the situation itself. It’s beyond me, you, everything you’d ever thought it would be like.
Instead of going on and on about how marvelous the sights were, let me get down to the real experience with stories from the day. I’d say, this day will forever live in the hearts of everyone I was with — no matter how different our perspectives.
One of the first activities we had in Beijing was a home visit with a typical Chinese (Beijinger) family. I honestly wished this was one of the last activities of the trip, or that we were able to meet with the families throughout the course of our learning. My Mandarin at that point was still a bit lacking, more than I had thought.
You see, Beijingers have a very innate accent. It’s one that you have to get used to, especially someone like me who’d only heard classical or traditional Chinese. They also have different slang and even if I tried to speak with my best accent, they’d probably never completely understand what I was saying. Or, they’d know right off the bat I hadn’t been in Beijing long enough to grasp it in its entirety.