我的心的一部分在中国 Wǒ de xīn de yībùfèn zài zhōngguó

(A part of my heart is in China.)

An old man painting calligraphy in the square with water.  Crowds look on.

A business man in his suit, a lady in a fancy red dress both riding bicycles down the dusty streets.

An Asian style zumba class in an open square. One lady leading with a stereo. 50-100 people follow. No gym membership required.

A grandma picking up her grandson’s poop on the mall floor. No diapers required.

First restaurant in a new city… the waiter says, “eat these raw garlic cloves and drink this salty tea. It will kill the bacteria in your food.” It worked, I didn’t get sick… that time.

People on the street seeing a white person for the first time. “Hello, hello!” They call, when I respond they run away laughing. Mission accomplished, they spoke to a foreigner.

I jump off the bus when I see a crowd gathering. What is going on?

Beautiful music fills the parks as groups gather with their stringed intruments to make melodies.

white chocolate, strawberry ice cream bars, triple chocoloate ice cream bars… equivalent of 15 cents.

New friends, someone to hold my hand while crossing the street.  Hugs from 50 children with growing english skills.. “Hello Miss Conchie!” “Hi, how are you?” I ask, “I am fine, thank you, and you?” They parrot back.

Teacher friends to encourage me on tough days, “We love you.” A Chinese teacher said, “the childrens love you.”

One job, one community, one purpose, not being pulled in 100 directions.

I flew to China two times with as a college student and got the bug.  The day after I graduated with my B. Ed. I hopped on the plane again as an ESL teacher.

First time teaching, first time living in an apartment, first time living on my own, first time living in another country, first time riding a motorcycle taxi, first time having a toilet in my shower (all one room over there), first time getting a nice pay cheque, first time paying $1 for an amazing bowl of noodle soup

first time falling so deeply in love with children while at the same time being terrified of them.

First time wondering is my Shepherd with me when I don’t have my friends, my family, my comfort food, my usual traffic rules, my culture and language to share in deep conversation?  When my computer breaks down and that is my lifeline to back home in Canada and my seemingly only resource in teaching?

First time getting an award for singing the Titanic song.

First time having to bring a student to the principal’s office and really seeing his heart change for the better.

First time building community while speaking so few words.

First time feeling very loved and also very alone.

First time longing for rain to make the sky blue again (it washed away the pollution and gave us a few nice days)

First time sleeping only 2 hours a night for a week and feeling very strange sensations in my brain as a result.

First time I saw a driver cry when I had to say good by and come home. “I always remember you Melody.” He said.

First time feeling a physical pain in my heart as I climbed back on the plane to Vancouver.

I thought my China journey was over then but it was just beginning.

I faced a long season of hardship after teaching in China. I have asked myself and others have asked, “was it worth it?” “Should I have gone?” “Maybe it was a mistake?”

Looking back now I can see from the time that I was little and thought that Chinese people at the supermarket were French, I was being drawn to this nation and people for better or for worse.  It is impossible to tell how much my adventurous trip influenced my hard season afterwards.  Perhaps it was the catalyst that tore me out of my comfort zone and somewhat functional coping skills and plunged me into the adventure of real life. Raw, painful, risky and beautiful.

During one of my college day trips I received a heart shaped necklace from a Chinese student.  The clasp was tricky and it took a while for me to master putting it on.

I said to my friends, “this represents my heart for China. I am still figuring out how to wear it.  What it means for my life. One thing I know is that I have it.”

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