This is my first post in a while, and I have a reason for that. First, I stopped writing a weekly blog post because I was at the end of my semester, and I needed to focus on my final exams, but then summer started.
This summer, I have been out of contact because I chose to study the Chinese language abroad. I lived in southwest China for just under three months, and because of my location at the time, I had limited access to the internet. Thus, my silence. I am back in the states now, and I come with three months of stories and experiences. I want to encourage you this week with one of those stories, and I hope it stays with you as it stayed with me.
One of the festivals that happened when I was in China was the dragon boat festival. My language school hosted a day full of events for the students and their parents if applicable. This school has a decent number of foreigners, but I was one of three that showed up for the event. The rest of the students are typically children learning English, so there weren't many people I could talk to besides the two other foreigners and the teachers. This was my second week in China, so I had just learned how to make sounds with my mouth I had never made before as I worked on the tonal part of the language, and I didn't know much besides how to say hello and thank you. Overall the day was fun, we played games, walk around this tree nursery, and we had a barbecue. This was my first experience with Chinese barbecue, and I got placed at the same table as the teachers because I couldn't speak Chinese and they didn't know what to do with me. Eating was a whole cultural experience. As seen in the picture below, you cook the food in the middle of the table, and when it is done, you eat it.
The first thing that was different in this circumstance was that when you went and got raw food to cook at the buffet table, you didn’t just get food you wanted, you got food to share with the whole table. Of course, someone had to explain this to me because, in America, eating is a very individual experience, you may be with people, but you order your own food. This also happens in China, but communal eating where you share food is more common. The second different thing was that when the food was starting to get finished, people served food to other people. This was special because I saw hospitality and thoughtfulness in this gesture. Since I was a guest, they were constantly trying to put food in my bowl, and telling me to eat as much as I can. It was sweet, but also put me in a predicament, because they were cooking a lot of meats that I have never had before, and when they put it in my bowl, I would try it, but wouldn't be able to eat much. I didn't know what to do because I wanted to be culturally appropriate and kind, but I also didn't want to eat spam or pigskin. Eventually, I just told them I preferred vegetables and that I wasn't that hungry, which they accepted. After the meal, we had a "talent show." They asked me to open the show and to demonstrate talent. I didn't know what to do, so I decided to teach them a part of American culture, and when I got on that stage, I taught them the chicken dance. Seeing a room full of Chinese doing the chicken dance was a sight to see, and they loved it! I did, however, get outdone by a mother-daughter dance duo. Eventually the night came to an end, and they drove me back to my apartment, and I went to sleep with a full day of memories to keep.
The thing I want to expand on from this story was how they had a communal meal. When they went and got the food, they weren't just thinking of what sounded good to them, but what would feed everyone. Then when the food was cooking, they weren't watching only what they put on the grill, but all the food. When they went to eat the food, they served others before themselves. There are lessons in this that we can apply to our lives. Lessons about community and lessons about servitude. It is unique to be able to live with and learn from other cultures because even though we do things differently, we are all still human. We all still smile, laugh, argue, and cry. We just do it in a different language sometimes. That's all I have for today; I hope there is something from this story that you can reflect in some way. I know there is for me.