by Nathan Taylor
After two weeks of intense exposure to Chinese culture, it was time to come home. There were mixed emotions as we met at the Beijing airport for one last group picture (minus Jan who left in Xi’ an to go to Shanghai).
The first emotion was excitement for what we had experienced. We had just visited one of the seven wonders of the world, met wonderful people who opened their hearts and life experiences to us, and surrounded ourselves in a culture that challenged the way we thought about the world. We leave with feelings of exhaustion as we sought to experience Chinese culture, which resulted in an inward search that provided greater understanding for ourselves. We leave dreading the upcoming 13 hour flight to Detroit, which was extended after waiting 2 hours on the tarmac waiting to depart.
We leave balancing the excitement of this developing country, with a fear of how the development will alter the beauty of Chinese tradition. I find myself asking what will happen to the people? What will happen to families? How will tradition change? If I return in ten years, will I be able to witness the same majesty of China that I have experienced the previous two weeks? The complex interplay between communism and capitalism will be pivotal to how these questions are answered.
We leave with with a recognition of the infancy of American culture, as we were exposed to 2000 plus year old symbols of Chinese culture. Though often thought as antiquated symbols, many seem to still play a role in the peoples life. We leave having seen on one hand the beauty and prosperity that is China, and on the other hand seeing many of the challenges and obstacles of everyday life.
We leave with a greater understanding of Chinese culture, and a greater awareness of of how little we know about the world. We are surrounded by a diversity of people, whether 1000’s of miles away or sitting next to us in the cafeteria at UNL, all molded by their experiences and culture. With this awareness comes a call to be more open, inviting, and sensitive. We were told several times that if there was no food left on the table, though everyone was beyond full, it would mean that there was not enough prepared. We are leaving China full, knowing there are still parts of Chinese culture left at the table that we still need to experience. This experience resulted in a desire to nourish the seed planted to further understand and experience China.
As the plane departs from Beijing, I watch the shadow of the airplane displayed on Chinese soil. The Delta plane holding 350 people has a shadow that at first seems larger than life, but the higher we ascend, the shadow can barely be seen when compared to the vast geography of China. Though small, it still casts a shadow, an imprint on the world. We leave China hoping that the imprint we leave on the world is positive, with a greater sensitivity and appreciation to all walks of people.
Finally, we leave with new found friendships. New friendships developed in our “family” during the past two weeks, and for those who invited us into their family during our journey in China.