Communicate

Today I went to the post office. I said two words from the time I left campus to the time I came back. I found the office on my own. I didn’t have to ask for directions. Sometimes people get frustrated with my limited vocabulary. Sometimes they don’t say anything at all. Which is fine by me I suppose. I wish I could have asked what the stamp he showed me when he took my letters was. I should have tried to ask. Instead I nodded. It said something in French, I suppose it meant air mail. He didn’t have me put stamps on them. . . . I guess he did that. I hope they get back home. Though, I’ll be home possibly before they get there. It’s alright I suppose.

It cost 24 块 to send. 6 per card. There are lots of kuais. The one for money literally means “chunk.” Another Kuai is for chopsticks, and another is for quickness. 快 块 筷。 Fast, Chunk, Chopstick. You have to pay attention to the details. The first kuai as a dot then a line then a dot and then the radical. 2 dots. One stroke. The second has 3 strokes. The third looks like the first but it has another radical on the top. 你不明白?Did you understand that?

You have to really focus. Sometimes instead of saying nothing to me, people say too much. They talk so fast, they have weird accents I’m not used to, they don’t understand my northern Chinese, southern American accent. It’s hard to put your whole mind into what they say.

Classes last 4 hours. I’m not even sure my teacher speaks English. It’s hard to focus that long on each word, to consciously translate it every time. I forget I am there. I wander off. . . .

I wonder if my post-cards will make it to the US. Communication back home is frustrating. Sometimes things don’t work like they should. Sometimes my internet shuts down, sometimes my vpn won’t work, sometimes it takes 2-3 weeks to send a letter.

I can’t believe people used to do this before phones and internet. I can use facebook during breaks in class (usually) via my iPhone. So many people whose travels I read did it all without anything but a letter, maybe not even that. I doubt Mary Slessor could mail letters from central Africa in the Jungle. I am not that brave.

In fact I am not very brave at all. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. I get scared that I won’t learn enough, that the weeks won’t go by fast enough, that I’ll spend so much time worrying that I won’t learn enough, that I’ll spend too much money, and what about after I leave, will I forget everything I learned? Will I spend months more learning Chinese with no avail? I wonder why I am so blessed to do this? I’m scared that I’ll abuse the purpose. I wish I knew what God was doing sometimes.

Some days I’m pretty sure I’ve got it all together.

Other days I don’t think I can.

Those are hard days.

Days in need of faith.

My throat hurts and I don’t know whether I’m holding back tears or I have a cold.

谢谢呀。 The only words I said to the post man.

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Appalachia and Shanghai

I’ve spent much of my life dreaming of leaving Appalachia and coming to China, primarily the cities. To not talk with a Kentucky accent, but be purely bilingual with clear tones and pronunciation. To avoid listening to bluegrass music. I preferred 12 Girls Band, and traditional Chinese folk music to the sounds of my hometown. Growing up in Berea and dreaming of Shanghai I was immersed in my own culture while studying the other. These past few days I have found myself immersed in the culture of Shanghai while professors from the Appalachian Studies program at the University of Kentucky have been teaching seminars on practically my hometown.

It’s a little surreal. Berea and Shanghai both are. Berea is hard to explain, they love crossing cultures, being liberal hippies, everyone is vegan… they all like mandolins, banjos and everyone has been part of the Festival Dancers… which I was part of… and I was actually asked the question by 3 people in Shanghai, one from Berea and two Berea-lovers.

I spoke with one of them today– A fiddler from Clark County. I could tell he loved Berea before he spoke a word. Maybe you can just always spot someone from where you’re from. We stood a midst the Chinese looms and he asked me if I’d ever heard of Churchill Weavers. I laughed. Of course, I am from Berea. He pointed out how amazing it was that all of this had come together at the same time. I am blown away and I’m having trouble processing the two cultures I maybe know best. In many ways they’re both part of me.

I also have a lot of critique on both dialogues from both sides concerning the cross-cultural communication. So I guess it’s good that I’m majoring in both. I also possibly found a senior thesis already.

I’m entirely curious as to what God is up to and it’s really exciting.

Missionary Spotlight on Gladys Aylward

When I wrote an essay in the 9th grade, on who my hero was, I wrote about a woman named Gladys Aylward. I remember being surprised that my sunday school teacher in the 4th grade had never heard of her.  My mom read her biography to me, when I was very young, by Janet and Geoff Benge. Perhaps, she is the reason I have always wanted to go to China.

Gladys Aylward lived from 1902-1970. She was a five foot tall English woman determined to follow God’s calling in her life, which was to be a missionary in China. She had been a Christian all her life, but Christianity came alive to her when she was 25, when she heard a man preach on missionary opportunities, it was then that she knew her calling was in China. Gladys attended the China Inland Mission School in London, when she was 27, but she was failing all of her classes. Director of the school told her that there were younger girls waiting to get into the school and it wasn’t fair to them to let her keep failing. Not good enough for missionary school, she was good enough to God, and her calling still stood. The director of the school knew that the language classes were difficult and complex for an adult woman, so he offered Gladys a job working as a maid for a London couple who had just returned from China. Gladys took the job. She would work to be able to go to China. Having no school to send her, no organization to back her, and no money, she would work as a maid on her own.

Gladys had only one third of the cost of a train ticket to China, so she gave the clerk her money and told him she would return each week with more, until she had enough. In the mean time, Gladys taught herself to preach and she learned all she could about China. It took 7 months. She heard about an elderly woman from the church who had gone back to China alone, Gladys wrote Mrs. Lawson, and set out to meet her in China.

Have you ever doubted God’s calling because things seemed like they would never work out? I’m sure Gladys wondered sometimes. Her train to China stopped in Siberia because of the war between China and Japan, she struggled around language barriers, she struggled with going home, but in China, God was with her. Gladys did many great things in China through God. She rescued many orphan children and took care of them. One of them was named Six Pence, because the child’s care-taker sold her to Gladys for six pence. Gladys ran an inn where she cared for the children, but when the area became dangerous because of the war, she had to take the children to a new area across a mountain.

The most incredible thing occured. Gladys marched herself and 98 orphaned children over a mountain a midst a battle.  Soldiers’ bullets flew all around them, and yet not a single child was harmed and all of the children reached safety.

Her story is inspiring, and I think one of the most inspiring things about it is that she knew God’s calling, and she followed even though she faced many trials. I wonder if these were not so much tests, as God’s timing at work. Had Gladys gone to China through the missionary school, she may never have been in the place to rescue those children. But because of the time in history that she was brought to China, years after she planned to go, the children were able to be rescued. And it occurs to me that often times God’s way is not the easiest way. We know that God has asked us to do this, or we know that God is teaching us that, but I think that sometimes we take things into our own hands, we think that our ways will get the job done, when in reality, maybe that’s not how God wants the story to be carried out. And sometimes it’s not just the task, but the journey that God wants us to see through.