Today is July 10, 2016, here in Xiamen. We have stayed in China for only a week now, and there is a reflective feeling that I hold. So, on this landmark on our NSLIY timeline, this will be a reflection among other updates on the blog. Of course, no NSLIY student is totally fluent in Chinese, and for many of us, if not all, the hardest challenge is to make that connection with the Chinese people. Me and for many others feel the journey is in the thick of things. That means to say, that life in China is in full swing for each one of us. The use of the squatty potties has slowly started to grab one person, then another, and another. Eventually, in six week’s time, we will have done things, eaten things, experienced things that are so foreign to us.
Eating at a Xiamen University student cafeteria
It’s a rush: living in college dormitory, living internationally, exploring the Oriental neighborhoods, walking in humid air among exotic bamboo and vegetation, smelling the distinct scent of rice, playing international basketball with the people of Xiamen, learning about the philosophy of Confucius, singing “Uptown Funk” to the kind Chinese convenience store owner… it goes on and on.
Learn to play Chinese chess
There is a special feeling that each one of us senses as we spend time in the world, that is, Xiamen. At the beginning, our superiors said that not many people in Xiamen have seen American visitors, especially teenagers. However, despite age, we become the face of America to them. For all of us, we can feel that being a teenage ambassador adds a feeling of warmth between us and the people of Xiamen. There is an ease, a feeling of approachability on both sides, to come and talk to each other.
These small relationships, whether it be with the lobby greeter or with the store clerk from the grocery shop you visit every day, are enhanced; become special, because you make them smile in making an effort to talk them in their language, to show the effort to really want to be their friend. Of course, no NSLIY student is totally fluent in Chinese, and for many of us, if not all, the hardest challenge is to make that connection with the Chinese people. It’s a thing that sticks to you- when you make one international friend when the first thing you said to her was “你很漂亮” (That was my first experience).
Making friends with local people
The past days have been full of homework, from Chen Laoshi’s Cultural Lectures to immersive “no-English” tutoring time. The days have been working and learning hard to strengthen speaking the language and understand the people and history of China. Yet, the whole day, during school and during the nighttime freedom, an adventure is always being pursued. Everything, even the bathroom interests and amazes us. But, for me personally, greater than the old Chinese fortress, monk temple, Chinese memorial sculptures and paintings, and world class piano performance, the close built dorms with shoes outside the door and clothes drying outside, urban paved streets, packed restaurants and stores, tropical vegetation, weird smells, and especially, the people, with their clothing, their work, their smile, makes the most interesting, memorable experiences. The everyday lifestyle and landscape of the people of China sticks with us the most. Everything gives, rather, everything teaches, us a new concept of life. And as Confucius said (roughly quoted), “One does not know everything. There is always something to learn from someone.”
Warm up before dance practice
We are one family.