June 4, 2016
Hong Kong Airport, China (7 hour lay-over)
I guess it’s pretty cool that I’m in China right now. I’m just at the airport so it doesn’t really count, but at least I can say I’ve been in the country!
I’m sitting at a table in the food court and next to me is a Chinese man slurping his noodles so loudly it’s almost comical. Across from me is a an advertisement reading, “Take control of your skin’s translucency: Tri-Intensive Brightening Serum,” with an image of a woman whose skin blends in completely with her gleaming white blazer. It’s funny how cultures can be so reversed. Back in the U.S., people are spray tanning and oiling their bodies to be darker, while in Asia, white skin and paleness is the goal. Beauty is all relative.
Ah, slurping man just finished his soup :)
SO - with 5 more hours to kill, now would be a good time to reflect on my time at the Everest Teaching Center from May - June 2016.
I remember arriving at Everest for the first time as if it was yesterday. Saying goodbye to Sophie one last time after my birthday dinner, then heading off on my own for the next adventure. Riding in the taxi on the way to Quang Minh, the future was so uncertain. I had that slight feeling of butterflies in my stomach and a quick heart beat, but on the outside I was calm and composed. I knew that feeling of newness well by then, after leaving and starting over so many times this year.
Now, it’s hard to believe that it happened and is already over. The beginning was tough - not getting any guidance with teaching classes and feeling like I would be bored out of my mind in the tiny, rural village. In the end though, I was quite happy with the experience. Us volunteers had to be very creative to entertain ourselves in the village and I made the most of my extensive free time - lots of yoga, reading, meditating, long morning runs, researching careers and majors, etc. It seems like this type of living, at least for a short while, is good for the soul. Plus, teaching was a life-changing experience. It all seems worth it when my students tell me how thankful they are for my lessons and how much they have learned. The goodbye dinner Huyen threw for my Nakagawa class was so touching. Actions really do speak louder than words.
My favorite part of the experience was living in the village. I prefer the rural village much more than Hanoi. Hanoi has been re-designed to make money off of tourists, while Quang Minh is untouched. Us 5 foreign teachers are the only white people the villagers have ever seen. Thinking back to Quang Ming, I think of the chickens and piles of cucumbers, tomatoes, greens, and eggs in the baskets on the street… toothless women squatting in their patterned shirt and pant sets, faded by the dust and sun… little children with their school bags on, biking through the rice paddy fields on the way to school.
I came to two realiations:
1. The quality of an experience has nothing to do with what you do or where you are, but rather, who you are with and your attitude.
2. Delayed satisfaction and self-discipline lead to a much greater appreciation of the small things in life.
A few days ago, I listened to a podcast titled, “How to find your purpose in life in 20 minutes.” Intrigued (I’ve been very into this type of thing during my gap year), I listened, and the answer was so simple - write down a list of possible meanings for life, and keep going until you feel like you are about to cry. This sounds ridiculous and stupid but, stuck on the stinky bus to Hanoi for an hour and a half, I decided to try it. I didn't cry at the end, and I definitely didn't find the purpose of life, but here's what I ended up with:
May 27, 2016
What is the purpose of life?
To be happy.
To leave a positive impact upon the world.
To be conscious of the present moment.
To love with all one’s heart.
To never stop learning, but to read the world not as a book, but as an extended metaphor in a most moving poem.
To look at the stars in wonder.
To feel small, smaller than a drop of water in the cosmic ocean.
To feel big, to respect yourself and love your perfect imperfections.
To be generous to others, but not so far as to be selfless.
To love the self, but only by seeing it as a part of every person, animal, and plant.
To cry until your chest hurts and throat is dry.
To feel fear, but not let it stop you.
To find clarity of mind, a flowing river in the natural turbulence of thought.
To share your knowledge with others.
To create and educate the next generation.
To save this burning planet from destruction.
To die peacefully, surrounded by those you love, feeling accomplished and unafraid.
To say goodbye and to believe you will see them again one day.
To be sincere in your word and to disregard every currency but love.
To try and fail a million times, even when hope is gone.
To ask for help and say thank you ten times for every time you say sorry.
To feel the sun on closed eyelids and forget who you are for a moment.
To appreciate every sense.
To learn patience.
To love another more than yourself.
To embrace serendipity, or rather, create your own luck.