Ni hao (hello) from China. It’s Tuesday afternoon here (15 hrs ahead of Pacific time). I arrived late Sunday night after about 24 hrs of continuous daylight, thanks to a long flight and the crossing of several time zones. And since I have arrived in Xiaogan, I have not left my apartment. The university at which my team—myself and three others sent by the NWYM—will be working is required to quarantine us for one week, as a caution to protect the country from the Swine flu. Yep. Until further notice, we are stuck in our apartments for a few more days. Hence—I’m “sort of” in China; I’ve yet to explore and meet anyone other than my roommate.
There are some benefits to this. (Here comes a little “Bositivity”…props to Ron and Joann for the term). It is awfully hot and humid outside, and I have AC in my room. I also have had a good time getting acquainted with my apartment mate for the year—Will, a fellow ESL teacher from Cameroon. He has been informative about what to expect from the Chinese people—one thing being friendliness. This confirms what I’ve already heard: the people here, whether I meet them in the classroom or buy shoes from them, will be incredibly intentional in befriending me. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities for dialogue in a culture where everyone is as eager as me (if not more) to know and understand me. I am chomping at the bit to be “liberated” from my apartment and meet these wonderful people!
Will is very obviously going to be a great roommate. He is thoughtful, generous, and easygoing. Today he made us lunch—Cameroon style—while we discussed the culture and political situation in Cameroon (very intriguing) as well as foreign sentiments toward the U.S. I’m already energized by what I am learning by being here, and I’ve hardly met anyone.
Also been a good time to read and relax before the busyness of teaching and socializing begins in the next several weeks. I’m working through three books. The most rewarding has been "The Alchemist" (Paulo Coelho), a timely read for me in many ways. It is a “journey” novel about a Spanish shepherd boy traveling across Northern Africa to find what he calls his “personal legend." It is a neat take on the search for purpose, written from an inclusive religious perspective. I like the stress on how one’s search for purpose is not merely personal, but corporate. I like to think that searching for our “legend” is something others need from us; that the more a person lives out their passion/purpose, the greater contribution they make to the whole human community. Thus our quest for our “personal legend” is not necessarily narcissistic, but is an act of love. It is a recognition that meaning is found not in isolation from others but through relationships and through offering our lives to others. Our personal legend is our unique offering to the human community.
Enough on that. I’m also reading "The Great Awakening," Jim Wallis’ latest visionary book about faith and politics (recommended!), and a book about Chinese culture. Plenty of time to read while trapped. :)
All for now…will update more once I actually start to meet people.