“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu
About four years ago I stepped onto the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University. It took nearly a month for me to call it home. Despite it still being in Oklahoma, it was the single biggest change in my life up to that point.
Fast forward a few years…
I’ve been in China about three weeks, and it has been an even bigger change. Mostly the experience has been a positive one, but today I was mildly fed up with this place, missing western food, and severely procrastinating on lesson planning, as I tend to do when I’m nervous. I haven’t quite committed to calling it home.
I continue to feel like a wanderer, a vagabond, despite having a relatively nice apartment.
In all honesty, I spent most of today either sleeping or dreaming about cheeseburgers…floating down from the ceiling into my mouth. So in an attempt to appease my persistent appetite I made chip/french fry things. Despite being a little too salty (and lacking ketchup) they were quite good! I definitely feel as though China is making me a better cook.
Anyway, today was overall a very uneventful day consisting of me being a complete and total bum. Then everything changed…
While sharing my over-salted chips with some friends across the hall, I expressed my craving for western food even if it was just McDonald’s (which is about 4 miles down the road). Originally, we had been considering going to karaoke, but I don’t really like it much to begin with. It turns out that nobody was really in the mood to go anyway. Instead they agreed to find McDonald’s with me and it was a truly glorious moment! I’m quite thankful for my fellow interns here at SWPU.
I often like to think that I am stronger than missing home, or craving normal while at the same time having thoughts that would reveal such weakness. Instead I rather pride myself on flexibility and adaptability in new environments. Alas, I am only human.
In my craving for normalcy, and despite aspects of living in China being oddly normal, I invited a group of friends/interns over last night for a spaghetti dinner. In my mind I would cook and everyone could share a meal. However, I am in China, and I invited Chinese friends to this dinner. I did not realize that in China everyone brings something, and they cook it at your place. I suppose I like the concept, along with many of the other food practices here, but it was not something I was expecting and at first it irritated me. So much for flexible and adaptable. Why was I so bothered, you may ask. It’s quite simple: my ego took a bit of a hit. I spent 2 hours making spaghetti sauce from scratch, confident that I would have enough. The crushing reality was that if my Chinese friends had not brought food, it would have been a very sad dinner indeed. People would have most definitely left hungry. All-in-all it turned out to be a very nice time, and there were so many people squashed into my tiny apartment. I think I learned something from this…but at the end of the night I was so tired from playing Pictionary I didn’t give it much thought. Which may explain why I’m debriefing about it now. Ultimately things are so much nicer when everyone brings something to the table, literally. One person contributing takes away the opportunity for diversity, for exchange, for growth. I suppose I’m still talking about dinner parties, but ultimately it is a truth that permeates throughout many aspects of life.
Below are some photos from this evening’s stroll after enjoying our McDonald’s.
Taken at Guihu Park, yet again.