Dreams on the Other Side

Gansu University of Chinese Medicine. I didn’t know where I wanted to go because I didn’t know something like this would be a choice. It’s perfect. A smaller city, an hour to any number of awesome places, at a place as old and traditional as I could imagine. I have yet to see anything that is less than what I could have dreamed.

I leave tomorrow, on a twenty two hour train ride. That would not be my first choice, but for now, I think it just adds to the story. A long journey ahead with dreams on the other side. I came here wanting to feel, and now I do. The concept of art is to express things beyond words. The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao. I have endless stories from others in my head, quotes and fragments of what they saw, but this is mine. I’ll try to share it, but I really can’t, I don’t have the words. Three languages and I still haven’t found anything to fit this.

My family and I spent last weekend here up in the mountains, so much like the far away places in Taiwan, but far more restricted than that. I can’t wait until I can get back to the places we so few people go, place hard to get to. The stairs and the railings never suited me much, but the beauty of the place and the people were still here. I miss jumping from dangerous heights, drinking from the stream where the water is still clean, and feeling the distance from the world. Here, the people are still awesome. Someone offered me chicken wings from a bag, and there were still locals relaxing in the water until it started raining.

There were a number of volunteers with us, the Bourgeois, Happy Rice, Guizhou, Whyshenme, and the Voice. Normally it would be harder to come up with nicknames for them, but we’ve been together so much for so long that it comes easier. And now, most of them will be gone. Only five of the Sichuan Normal University training group will go to Gansu, Out of sixteen. It feels like we’ve been together forever, but it’s been six weeks. There will be nineteen of the China 23 training group going up there, and we have the China 22s waiting for us already, but in a lot of ways I will be alone.

My campus is small, and I am the only foreign teacher there. The students will be doctors and nurses, training mostly in Traditional Chinese Medicine, with the older students doing their residency in nearby hospitals. I got a packet filled with information on who I report to, notes from the last volunteer there, a new host family, and a list of things to be done. It’s far more information than I received anywhere else, and far more support already in place.

I did find it amusing when someone referred to an eighteen hour a week course-load as heavy, but I got used to much more in Mexico and Taiwan. There will be more lesson planning, but no homework to be done. I am ready for the work, and I can’t wait to see what else is there. That’s all there is for now, anticipation. Enough that it drowns out the possible horror of the train ride. Enough for me to really feel it, like standing in the river, waiting to be swept away.

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