Leaving here is as hard as it was to leave my home in the States. I’ve settled in more than I expected, and while I had more free time to study than most, I feel like I missed out on some of the strangeness that comes with a family that is new to hosting volunteers. I don’t really know if that’s good or bad for me.
They are my family now, and that’s really more than I had hoped for. For all that could have been, it’s over now, and I am glad I was here. I don’t think there is much that is more stressful to me than not wanting to go home after a long day.
We went up into the mountains again, but more like the trips I took in Taiwan, a long hill with a waterfall at the end. There were places that were far more off the beaten track, but nothing is really pristine this close to the city. Too many weekend tourists, and far too much garbage. It’s the same everywhere, you get too many people in an area and trash begins to get left behind. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Mexico could get, but I wish I had brought a trash bag for the trip back down.
My time in Chengdu is almost over, but it feels like I’ve been here six months. It will be nice to have some time to rest up and plan for next semester, and I should have a week when I get back home to Lanzhou.
Home, I know it’s not yet my home, but the word still fits somehow. Like so many things here, it’s not what I would have asked for, but it really suits me. Karma at work, I guess. I’ve heard that word used to describe so many things in life, but for me it’s a very simple thing. What you do, and the energy you put into the world, shapes your entire existence. I came here, learned and taught, and what I found waiting for me is everything I could have hoped for.
I have found that in my life it is better for me not to ask for specific jobs or positions, but simply to be who I am and see what comes my way. I don’t hide what I like, or don’t like, but it feels like when I ask for something, I limit the possibilities of what could be. What I don’t know about the world feels infinite, so I just do my best to let the waves take me where they will. I always seem to wind up in a place that suits what I need to learn.
Finding the right teacher is always the focus of my energy. I’m moving again, so I need to find a new kung fu teacher, a language teacher, and any other teachers that may come my way. I can learn from anyone, and everyone has a lesson to teach, if I really listen. I always wonder who the next teacher will be, and what lessons I still need to learn.
Pre-Service Training taught me a lot of things, filled in most of the blanks I had from teaching in Mexico and Taipei, but I think the real test for me was the people. Being together so much for so long is not something I am used to. I rarely even date because there are so few people I really want to be around that much. As much as I love people, it’s hard when you can’t choose who surrounds you.
I think my biggest problem was my idealization of what the Peace Corps should be. Too many old books, most of them written after service when the bad memories have faded. Almost all of us are new to what we are doing and what is ahead, and I forgot that when I found my dream coming true. Making peace with that was hard, but necessary.
I have never been part of such a mixed group of people, and finding my place among them was hard too. I don’t know what’s ahead, but at least I know I have support going forward, that I have a group that I am a part of. I got used to doing everything on my own, but I really don’t think this will be like what I’ve done before.
I think in the back of my mind there was always the idea that this wouldn’t really test me, that I had prepared too much and this would be a job like in Mexico. I would teach some, practice kung fu, make friends with the locals, and learn as much of the language as I can. I am so glad to be wrong.
I’m sure that will be part of it, but I don’t think I can be who I was going forward. I still hold my integrity and my loyalty at the center of who I am, but I think almost everything else will change here. I used to be more frightened of that idea, but now there is the edge of excitement too. Part of why I left home was to find the edges of who I am, and to see what happened when I looked into the void beyond. I don’t know what I hope to find there, but I know it will be something I need.