In Praise of the Struggle

I’ve already heard time and time again—things take longer in China. I think it’s hard to fully understand what this means unless you’re here—and obviously I haven’t really grasped the gravity of this, especially in my current hotel dwelling.  Yet, it has still been evident. Last night, I went with a group of fellow teachers to a Chinese tea house for a cultural show.  It ended and we thought we’d take a cab home.  After about 20 minutes of trying to navigate how to get to the street around a series of fences preventing us from getting there, at last we reach the street, and very unsuccessfully attempt to hail a cab. Finally, realizing we could have been halfway home on the subway, we give up.  Then we navigate some more fences to arrive at the subway.  And eventually about an hour later we are back at our “home.”

On our way home, my friend and I began to talk about values…and how when life gets easier it does not always translate to better.  Or at least better for our lives, our friendships, our souls. Even in my short time in China, I have more of an awareness, an appreciation for many things that can easily be taken for granted at home.

I am also reminded how often when everything is relatively easy and within reach we can lose sight of our dependence on one who is greater.  On our interdependence on one another.

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We’ve oft heard the quote: “anything worthwhile takes time.”  But I wonder how often we miss out on the reward because we don’t want to take part in the inevitable struggle.  But perhaps what is worthwhile is not only the outcome, but also the character produced from the journey.

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Beijing bellies and bunny ears

 

I look at the window at the crowded streets and sidewalks.  I can spot men with shirts rolled up to expose their bellies to cool them off in the sweltering sun. They call it the “Beijing belly.”  Apparently during the Olympics, they tried to discourage the Beijing belly as a form of impolite behavior, but alas, the tradition continues on.  And it hits me, once again.  I live here.  I live in China.  I’m not here on vacation (even though my current residence is a hotel) or for a semester abroad.  I’m here for two years…and perhaps much longer.

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There are moments when the sights and sounds of China seem overwhelming.  I know those moments will come and go, with some days being far more overwhelming than others.  I’m sure there will be times when I think, “did I really move to China?”  Okay, let’s be honest, there are times when I’ve already thought that. 

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But then yesterday, we had some English students take us around the city.  As we talked with these two students, my heart overflowed with joy.  And I was reminded of why I’m here.  To see their faces.  To hear their stories. To be a part of their lives. And of course, to stealthily capture some photos of the Beijing belly. 

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And yes, I’m wearing bunny ears.  They are pretty cool.