Sunday, July 13, 2008

People Make the Place

It’s interesting to look back at my first blog entry the first week of our trip labeled, “We’re not in America Anymore.” I knew it would be a slow reality that we are actually living in China, but now I’m really starting to feel at home here.
Ordering food is not the big ordeal it used to be. We are getting great at pointing and the few words we know help! And, I’m getting very comfortable with not having any idea what is going on around me! We are all growing a little more independent and feel confident journeying over to the mall or trying out a bus route. Life generally goes on as normal.

I’m starting to feel not so out of place. In fact in Starbucks today as I was writing my paper, I caught myself looking at some foreigners and thinking, ‘tourist’!

This week we had an interesting trip to a more rural area of Beijing. I agreed with one of our professors explained that we aren’t seeing the true country until we see the rural areas. We’ve been studying a lot about rural poverty and inequality. It is crazy to see the effects of urbanization on China and many developing countries. Our ideas of urban and rural areas are so different. We often think of inequality and the poor in urban areas.

I could stare out the bus window the whole trip and be intrigued by every little common everyday thing that the Chinese people were doing. Kid walking to school. Baby peeing in the gutter. Old man playing chess. Guy riding his bike piled incredible high with who knows what. woman using a strange broom. Naked kids swimming in a dirty pond. Our attempts at capturing the moment with photos usually fails, but it’s all great to give us a better understanding of the real China.

I’ve found the best way to learn about China is to ask. The most interesting things to me are the thoughts and opinions of the people that live their daily lives rather than what a textbook or lecture tells me. Although conversations with the graduate students and random other people I meet may be slow and take a lot of patience, I think it is the most precious part of my trip. While I am learning about the real China, the person I am talking to is simply thrilled to be putting into practice the English that they’ve studied for so long.

I’m learning that no matter where you are in the world; people make the place. When I look back on this trip, all the things that we saw and did will be pretty amazing, but what I’ll take home with me the most is what I learned about myself and the OSU and CAAS students. I’ll cherish all the awkward giggles, translation misunderstandings, silly questions about America, those in depth talks, inside jokes and making genuine friendships.

I found out they don’t really hug much here in China. There have been some people I’ve grown to love so much I just gave them a huge awkward hug…I don’t think they knew what to do at first. It’s been fun to watch them grow more comfortable with our American greeting and give me a hug when they see me! It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to China and the relationships I’ve all grown here!

Today, two of the students I've been hanging out with asked if they could join me at chrch.  They weren't sure if everyone was invited to come.  I was thrilled! I had a lot of opportunities to explain things to them.  I know my words cannot be enough.  I just ask that Papa would speak to them and open their minds their hearts and their eyes to see. It will be very hard to say goodbye to these two. 

Tomorrow I'm off with the OSU group to Inner Mongolia.  It should be a bit of a challenge for our group and very interesting. We have a 10 hour train ride! It will be great to get away from the city and see more about how the rural people live. I hope we have a wonderful adventure!


Andy said...

I'm not quite understand the sentence that "peole make the place",does that mean "people enjoy their places where they are"?

I hope you can enjoy your journey in inner mongolia,you can make that place.

janikamonique said...

I love you paige! xie xie! my chinese!

Alayna said...

I'm so glad you're having such a wonderful time Paige! Pray for all those going to Breathe this weekend! I know this next month will be exciting for you- I'll continue to keep you in prayer! Love you sis!
~Alayna :)