The Gift of Time Spent in China

Making dumplings in ChinaIt’s hard to have lived a life no one else understands. Even if it was only a piece of a life, it still matters. It has molded me and shaped me, creating the person I am today.

My experience living in China mattered. While I did not grow up there or spend a decade living there as my dear friend Rosie did, the year and half I spent in the Middle Kingdom influenced me.

It wasn’t just that I got to see first-hand how another culture operates. It wasn’t just that I tried new foods and actually liked them. It wasn’t just that I made friends that I now miss. There’s something more…

I have difficultly pinpointing exactly how I was changed, but I was…

In China, it was normal for me to carry toilet paper in my purse. I drank hot water. I used phrase such as, “take a rest.” I was called “teacher” as a sign of respect. My white skin was considered beautiful. Crowded buses were the norm. Being pushed and shoved in line at the supermarket was to be expected. We called the school cafeteria the “canteen.”

I ate more dumplings than I can count, slurped noodles like the best of them, and danced outside in the square on cool weekend nights. Most importantly, I truly loved people like I was never going to leave.

I realized early on that in order for me to make the most of the experience, I had to say “yes” a lot. I had to accept invitations while fighting the urge to retreat to my apartment with a book and a blanket. Experiencing the fullness of what God had for me in China meant being bold enough to try new things and be willing to look silly.

China helped me come alive in a way I desperately needed.

I needed to step away from expectations of both others and myself. I could be me.

The Gift of Time Spent in China

Amidst the chaos that comes with a country of 1.4 billion people, I learned a lot about patience. I started to see greater value in diversity, recognizing that different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong. God showed me unconditional love.

I bring up China tonight as I write this post because I just got off WeChat (essentially, the Chinese version of Facebook) and was reminiscing. When I get excited about China and think back on my experiences there, I realize how few people in my life can relate. Even those who do relate had different experiences than I.

Sometimes when I look back, it feels like a dream. Was that really my life for two different seasons? It was. And I loved it.

Do I miss China? Absolutely.

Even though I miss the overall experience and the individual people and places, I also see that time as a beautiful gift. God gave me the opportunity to step away from the status quo of American life and see the world from a different vantage point. In that time He ignited in me a greater love for Him, His word and His people.

I am forever grateful.

5 thoughts on “The Gift of Time Spent in China

    1. Glad it brought back memories for you, Whitney! Aren’t dumplings the best?! The people are pretty great as well…but those dumplings…

  1. How cool! I clicked on your name from your comment on Phylicia Delta’s blog :) I’m an MK/TCK and have been in China since 2007. What a wonderful attitude you have towards the unfamiliar!

    1. Hi Rebekah! That is really cool. I love reading Phylicia Delta’s blog. :) Thanks so much for reading! Do you blog? I’d love to hear more about your experience in China!

  2. Dear Emily,

    Even though I’m an older male Caucasian, I can appreciate your experience in China. I’ve been there four times in various parts of the country. And because of a certain set of circumstances, I’ve been attending the Chinese Christian Church of Tacoma, Washington for about the past three years.

    One thing I learned rather quickly on my first trip to China is that unlike here in the USA where you can for the most part trust the walk signals to cross the street, one cannot do so in the big cities in China. If one does, they do so at their own peril :)

    And I also found it a little amusing that if I went out to dinner with friends that I made there, that they would watch my plate. And if they thought I needed more of a certain kind of food, they would just put it on my plate even if I was full :) But I know they meant it as a kindness, and I took it that way.

    And of course there were many other cultural differences as well.

    So like I say, I can appreciate your life there. It’s a rather growing experience to be part of a different culture. But I’m also glad your back safely. And who knows, maybe you’ll go back there again sometime.

    Take care and God bless,

    ~ Larry

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