Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Living in Community

I realized today that in just eight more days, it will be my first monthiversary in China.  The thought made me rather reflective.  As I was observing earlier today to a coworker, although she and I have been here for a pretty short time, we've gotten closer to most people than we would have gotten in a year's time in the States.  Living over here today is a very special, unique experience.  Coworkers are not just the people that I see at work:  they're the people that I ride to school with, walk home from the bus with, go to dinner with, have movie nights with, do Sunday gatherings with, and, in a very real sense, live with.  They're family.  And, what's more, their children are becoming my family, too.

I see a lot of the kids when I'm walking back from the bus after school.  They have a great life here!  On several occasions lately, I've met up with a group of them in mixed ages, genders, and even races, having fantastic water fights.  A few weeks ago, one of the girls had an "Amazing Race"-themed birthday party, and my apartment was one of the stops.  Just last weekend, I was musing to myself that something sweet would really be nice to go with my lunch of extremely spicy noodles.  Just then, I heard a knock at my door.  It was a group of about six of the international kids, wanting to know if I'd like to buy any of the cookies they had baked together (the kids do that frequently here, I'm told, in order to earn some spending money or sometimes to raise money for charity).  I was happy to purchase two particularly promising-looking peanut butter cookies.

The relationships with coworkers are by far the most special and important to me.  My roommate and I, as well as my friend Kathryn (the other new single girl, whom I met during PFO), had dinner with a very sweet married couple from work last night.  It was a wonderful evening.  We talked with an openness and candor that is usually missing with people you've only known a short while; it felt as if we'd been friends for years!  And the fact that their ayi, who prepared the dinner, is an excellent cook certainly increased how splendid of an evening it was!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"