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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The Horizon of a Dream

Have you ever sat back on your heels over-looking a horizon? A new dawn and you blink your eyes again at the rising sun to realize your dream is still there, it’s a reality. This is no new dream, you’ve toiled it many nights, but the nights seemed endless, hopeful, but tiring, and you wondered if maybe you were sleeping. When the sun rises you realize the dreams are real, and you’re about to catch hold.

Tomorrow I board the plane to my dream. I’ve acquired many other dreams and hopes and aspirations over the years, but something about this place pulls my heartstrings. Tomorrow the sun will rise, and myself before it, perhaps I’ll watch the sun come to meet me in the sky.

About ten years ago I spent my nights copying the Comprehensive Chinese-English dictionary onto college-rules notebook paper. It took 8 months. About five years ago I was writing my teen-angst journal entries in half-Chinese and half-English. About one year ago I had decided to give up my social work major and tested into Chinese 201 at UK. About 9 months ago I nearly had to drop out of the class because I was spending every night until 3am studying after work. (I have a collection of vocab flashcards expansive enough to construct a 5 story building). About one week ago I was finishing up final essays for scholarships on this subject and celebrating my success in the classes.

After ten years people still ask me the same question: “Why Chinese?” (Some nights I ask myself the same thing). I think something about the number of people I will be able to talk to in their own language means something to me. There is probably also something about the difficulty of it that attracted me initially (I had much more drive as a child). Now I tell people, “I’ve started learning, I don’t want to quit.”

The language is now so deeply rooted in my spirit I can’t let it go. I blame God for that. These past few months of preparing for Shanghai University have given me much time to ponder my dreams, my plans, and my opportunities. I’ve dreamed of going to China for as long as I can remember, with the reality so close I don’t know how to handle myself. I’m amazed at what God has been up to all my life. I’m not sure what his intention is with it, but my mom pointed out it must have been him who put it in my heart to study so long ago. The opportunities I’ve had to learn are insane: a teacher in my small town in Berea, a friend my age at church who was born in China and recently been adopted into an American family, being homeschooled, the fact that the program at UK for Chinese is so new!

God has been constantly shaping me and my dreams since I was a young child. I’m curious how they will all come together. He has closed doors to some things that I never believe I could live without, he’s opened my heart to new ones which have changed my life.

“I know the plans I have for you” Declares the Lord, “Plans to give you a hope and a future”– Jeremiah 29:11.

I wonder what I would have thought of my life ten years ago. I’ve had many pondering of the future. Now, watching the future unfold I feel my heart start to race. The things in between, I never could have guessed or understood. There’s no use guessing at the future… but there is use in dreaming. It keeps our hearts open. And I believe God has a reason for them. I’m not sure we ever fully understand what the reasons are–I believe there are more than we know.

In the mean time I’m going to follow God to China and then I’ll follow him right back home. On second thought, home is where he is and his plans for me… and right now, that matches the first sentence. =)