Sunday May 17, 2009

Thought for the day: To experience difference is to know oneself. – unknown

I still get up very early in the morning – tired and annoyed at myself and this jet lag that just won’t go away. But then, this is quiet time and a chance to reflect on all that has happened. I have experienced much, gained much and I think, accomplished something. And we’re only one week into our two week commitment. This is quite a team that GV has assembled. I do feel fortunate to be a part of this collection of committed, caring individuals, very different from myself and yet, very much alike. The sense of discomfort and unease that I initially felt – being a part of this group of strangers and being in a place where I was unable to speak the language, unable to understand gestures and behavior – was difficult and disorienting. But after a week, my perceptions and reactions have changed. The stares in the elevator still get to me and I am still embarrassed when someone walks up to me and starts speaking to me in Chinese. But now I see past the unfamiliar. I see more of the humanity that I share with the Chinese people. It is the smiles and warmth that lifts my spirits and it is the rich traditions and history of this great land that awes me. When I observe something I do not understand, I realize it’s because we are different and that difference is what enriches this experience. And in the end I do think China and I are slowly becoming friends.

Team Journal:
It is Sunday, another free day, and all of us looked forward to further exploring Xi’an city and Shaanxi Province. Lucy, Leigh, Karen, Bob and I headed to the Shaanxi country side on Tour #3 to see a part of Chinese life that is in sharp contrast to life in Zi’an city. We were greeted in the hotel lobby by our guide Ellen. And left on a 90 minute drive to a small village south (?) of Xi’an in the HuXian County. Upon arrival we were greeted by Mr. Zhang Qingyi, a local wheat farmer and renowned water color and wood burning artist. He informed us that the village had a population of about 670 and that the farmers grew mostly wheat and corn- he himself works 8 acres of farmland. He quickly escorted us to his family home and gallery where villagers were awaiting our arrival. There we were treated to a dragon dance (which Lucy, Leigh and Bob later participated in) and to the rhythms of a drum and cymbal played by four village men.

After that warm welcome, Mr. Zhang took us on a walking tour of his farming village where we met local villagers,, toured an older home, walked by wheat fields and kiwi growers and visited the villages, Pureland Buddhist temple.

For lunch we returned to his home for a wonderful meal of hot and cold local dishes prepared by his wife and daughter-in-law. After we proceeded upstairs to his main art gallery and studio where he demonstrated his water color and wood burning techniques.

We were then given time to browse and to purchase some of his art works (which we did).
In ending the visit, Mr. Zhang took us to the village’s primary school. There we met some teachers and walked through a classroom. School was not in session.

Rural life appeared to be a very difficult one. As Mr. Zhang said, while villagers do not have a lot of material goods, their spirits are strong.

In leaving, I think we were all in agreement that this was an invaluable tour – personal, different, real – and that we’d highly recommend it to future Global Volunteers.


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