America – The Return

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

This quote, which is the motto of “Life” magazine, is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. I recently watched ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ for the first time–which is where I heard the quote–and loved it. It reminded me of why I decided to uproot myself and move to China over a year ago. I have a strong thirst for adventure that seems only to grow the more experiences I have.

I recently passed my anniversary of starting this blog and in doing so, I’ve gotten a fresh perspective of my life over the past year. The challenges faced, friends met, experiences had, and wisdom gained yet again have culminated to create the person I am today. And in doing so, I have, for the first clear time, discovered my purpose in life. I will be a world traveler.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been different from those around me. Growing up, I didn’t have many friends and I never quite knew why. But now I know myself much better and although I’m still socially awkward at times, I’ve learned to open up in a way that doesn’t make others uncomfortable. Still, I see things differently from most people I know and this allows me to have a unique perspective that I often share with others in their times of need. When I say I want to be a world traveler, what I mean is that I want to travel all over while helping people and making their lives a little better–a little happier.

Many argue over whether or not one person can change the world, but to me, that argument is meaningless as it doesn’t help anyone. So instead of trying to change the world, I will work to benefit the lives of individuals. Because that, I know I can do. For now, I’ll stay here at my school and teach children English, music, art, and gym so that they can grow up to be more successful in an increasingly interconnected world.

Now, I know it’s been a long time yet again since my last entry and as usual, I’ve been through so much. I finished my contract for my first year here and took 6 weeks off to heal my ankle, which I badly sprained doing parkour in the gym at my school, and to go back to America and visit my friends and family.

I first visited my brother and his family just outside Seattle and shortly after arriving, my new camera arrived from Amazon. This is something I’ve wanted for several years, but never bought. But now that I have it, I want to change the focus of this blog. Rather than writing long stories of things I’ve done out here, I will focus more on photography and let my pictures tell the tale. I took over 5000 pictures during the 5 weeks I spent in America and saved just over 600 of the best. Of those, I’ve picked the best ones to share with you all over the next two posts.

So, without further ado, here are the first pictures from my trip. I’ll share the rest from the other trips in subsequent posts.

 

 

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Let’s Celebrate our Adversities!

Change

As each of us grow older, it is essential that we grow and adapt with our changing circumstances. Some some of us do so more than others; and those who resist change will inevitably face the difficulties. Change is our nature. It doesn’t always have to be dramatic, however; it often happens very slowly. As the Chinese proverb goes, “Be not afraid of going slowly, be only afraid of standing still.”

My arrival in China nearly 3 months ago sparked some extremely rapid changes in me. I’ve changed how I eat, think, speak, and act. I’ve begun to see the world with newfound wonder and my view of the USA has changed. Not that I have negative thoughts toward my home country, but each day it feels more distant to me. I look back with nostalgia, but that is mostly directed towards my friends, family and past experiences.

For most of my life, I’ve World Travelwanted to travel the world, but it always seemed like a distant goal, one experienced only by “lucky” individuals. I now understand that it’s not that those people are lucky; they simply placed traveling higher on their priority list than comfort and security. It’s safe to fall into a routine of working a good job and ascending the hierarchy. On the other hand, it’s risky to take the leap and leave everything behind to see the world. I’m not saying one is better than the other; but with every decision we make, we will be sacrificing what could have been. I’ve been spending a lot of time in quiet contemplation about which direction I want to go in my life and I know that my travels are only just beginning.

— — —

It’s been a while since my last post and a lot has happened in that time. I’ll see if I can keep it somewhat short though.

Last time I wrote, I told you all about my experience playing guitar in Xiaoyaojin park and my missing tooth. Well on May 7th I went to the best dental hospital in the province and had an implant placed to replace my tooth. The operation went well with no problems, but I did have 4 stitches in my mouth and had to take some antibiotics and medication to prevent infection. They made my muscles feel weak and gave me drowsiness, which made it difficult to teach my classes. But with a little can-do attitude, I took it day by day and made it through.

Last Thursday I was asked if I would play some romantic songs for the mother’s day event being held on Sunday. I jumped on the opportunity of course and spend the evening deciding which songs to play. On Friday we decided on “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz and “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley. I knew the chords to Hallelujah, but not the lyrics. And I’d of course heard “I’m Yours” about a million times when it released in the U.S. So I spent the next two days practicing both in my free time.

By the time Sunday came around, I was off my prescriptions and my gums no longer hurt when I spoke. I taught my usual Sunday classes until 4pm when I grabbed my guitar and headed to Golden Eagle Mall for what I expected to be my biggest performance so far. You see, I was told that there would be hundreds of people there, so you can imagine my nervousness asĀ  I approached. When I arrived, I was very relieved, but a little disappointed to see that there were only about 30 people there plus the people walking by the shops.

The kids of Romp n' Roll playing musical hoops

The kids of Romp n’ Roll playing musical hoops

Before my performance, we had some sweet games for the kids and parents to play for some prizes. It was the first time I’d seen many of my students outside of our center, which was a cool experience. When the time came for me to play, I silently reminded myself that it only takes a few minutes of courage to shine. Although I still had a missing tooth and some visible stitches in my mouth, I chose to let go of attachments and just have a good time. As my American voice echoed throughout the mall, curious eyes came to investigate, filling in the gaps surrounding me and capturing the moment with their phones. With the exception of some technical sound difficulties and some forgotten lyrics, both songs went well and I felt great afterwards.

Romp n' Roll instructors do a prayer for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake

Romp n’ Roll instructors do a prayer for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. Gotta love the little girl copying their movements.

Following my performance, the other teachers I work with performed a traditional prayer for the victims of the earthquake in the Sichuan province last month. At the end of the event, I helped pass out the prizes to some ecstatic Chinese kids and then went on my way. A great end to a tough week.

Little girl with her Rompy prize

Little girl with her Rompy prize. She was so excited about it.

Yesterday I had my stitches taken out, which was awesome. But I found out that I now have to wait 5 months for my jawbone to fuse with the implant before I can have a full smile again. The reason for the name of this post is that through adversity, we are able to see what we’re capable of. Adversity inspires change within us. It is the slap in the face that wakes us up from our comfortable slumber and forces us to evolve. So I say we celebrate our adversity and see just how good we can be!

Here are my performances of I’m Yours and Hallelujah on Youtube.

Adapting to a New World

Each of us finds truth in different ways throughout our lives. Additionally, what is true to me, may or may not be true to you. Throughout my blogs, I may state something as being true which you don’t agree with. This is fine–its more than fine, its excellent–because it creates the potential for both of us to grow and adapt in a changing world.

Most of us eventually come to understand that change is inevitable and with this insight comes an underlying wisdom to be flexible and accepting of the changes that life throws our way. Now, I’m not saying that we should idly sit by and accept our circumstances as life passes before our eyes. What I’m trying to illustrate is that if we act like the flowing water in a river rather than the eroding stones, we can still be the same individual while effortlessly changing and adapting to our environment. Remember what Confucius said, “Only the wisest and most ignorant of men never change.”

This month marks 2 years without a haircut for me and ever since my hair started getting longer, close friends and strangers alike have told me that I resemble Orlando Bloom. This didn’t change when I came out to China and before I left Beijing, Kate told me that there was some hype in the Hefei Romp N’ Roll center about the Orlando Bloom look-alike who would soon arrive. That said I wasn’t prepared for the giggle fest that I received on my first day of working there. As funny and ridiculous as it was, I felt welcomed as the new American teacher in Hefei, Anhui.

After a few more days of stuffing my brain with songs, curriculum, and child development information, it was time for Laura, my trainer, to head back to Beijing. The time had come for me to take off my training wheels and start riding. Additionally, I was now surrounded entirely by Chinese people and since then I’ve seen less foreigners than I can count on one hand. It’s an exciting yet humbling experience as I’ve never stood out more in my life, but it can be lonely from time to time. It’s times like that when I’m especially grateful to be able to keep in contact with my friends and family back home.

Playing guitar with Damen, one of the kids at work.

After some adventures getting to and from work I was able to get an electric moped thanks to some help from Lu, the guy who has helped me with almost everything outside of work. Now I don’t mean to brag, but its a pretty sweet moped and it tops out at about 40… kph. As crazy as it is driving in a busy city in China, where traffic signs are just for decoration, I usually feel safer than I did biking in the States. Partly because I actually went faster on my bicycle than I do on my moped, but mostly because people pay much closer attention to their surroundings here than in any city in which I’ve driven in America.

My new moped and the key to exploring Hefei.

Aside from my job, which I love, one of the highlights of living here has been the Knight Bar; a pub with a bouldering wall. The Knight Bar is owned by a guy from New Zealand who loved rock climbing so much that he built a small climbing wall on which anyone can come and test their skills and strength.

The climbing wall at Knight Bar in Hefei, Anhui, China.

It was there that I met ZhaZha, my one friend outside of work whom I climb with at least once a week. Since I ride my moped there and in the interest of creating a safe climbing environment, none of us drink while climbing. I was an avid rock climber when I lived along the Wasatch mountain range in Utah, USA, but its been over a year since I lived there so I have had a lot of muscles to build up again. Its the small things in life like this that I’ve found to bring me some of the greatest happiness.

In the middle of writing this post, I was interrupted by some people who decided to put on a firework show right outside my window. Now if you read my last post, you already know that I live on the 12th floor so the explosions are right at eye level for me. It certainly makes for a great show, but it does make me wonder how strong my windows are if one of those rockets decides to get a little too close. Nonetheless, I’m grateful that this time the firework show is happening at 7pm instead of 2:30am like last time. Ahh China.

While in the Sacramento airport waiting for my flight on Feb. 20th, I wrote the first entry in my journal and since then I’ve written over 20 pages; something I’m very grateful for. The perspective that I gain by reading my past entries is invaluable. I can look back and see that after about a month living in Hefei, I had nearly forgotten what it was like living and working in America. Additionally, I can really see the ups and downs I’ve faced living here and the adaptations I’ve made.

My ability to adapt to new circumstances has never been tested as fiercely as it has these past two months since I arrived in China. I’ve had to give up many, if not most, of my comforts that I had become so accustomed to while living in America. (I really miss Mexican food; 30 RMB for a bag of chips here? Get real.) But with the difficulties that I’ve faced comes an unparalleled opportunity for growth and development.

Now, I could go on and on about the adventures that I’ve faced since I began my new life here, but I understand that even those reading this post have things to do and lives to live. So I’ll save them for another time. I know that just by taking the thoughts that I have in my mind and sending them all over the world through this blog, I am expressing myself in a positive way. I can only hope that by reading this, all of your lives have been influenced positively as well. Here’s to the future.

Cheers