This trip has not been so thrilling or heart-warming as it was spontaneously educational. I have learned more about myself and about the world around me through the experiences of thirteen distinctive students.
It all began when I flew over to Beijing in the summer of 2010 where I was to be one of the teachers at a “Life English” camp working together with the organization FIREFLY. I still remember how nervous I was while I was packing the day before my departure. I would be staying halfway across the world for a month, without my family nor my friends. Then, oblivious and consumed by my thoughts, I half-heartedly threw my journal into my bag not knowing how much of what I wrote would later impact my life.
The first day we arrived, it was hot and very humid. My sweat was tenaciously sticking to my skin, dripping off my forehead as I carried my bags into the bus where I would be carried away to the Firefly office. All I can remember when I arrived was being overwhelmed with a kind of culture shock. The cars were crawling everywhere like ants and there were colorful vendors in every corner selling everything from pirated DVDs to small fried newts. After being surrounded by such an alien country, I was relieved to find familiar faces in the office. They were Americans like me but similar to the outside world that I was now a part of, it was full of the new and the strange: Lynn came from Alabama, Caleb and Domingo had come for Hawaii, Jason was from Southern California, and Sun Qi, who would later help us with the translating, came from the countryside of China.
Once the English camp started we had about 18 students and meeting these students was one of the greatest blessings in my life. Many of the students were around the same age as me and they would share about how stressful school and studying was for them. A particular student I met was Julie, she was my roommate and although we were the same age she was extremely shy and knew minimal English. However, as I spent more time with her she began to open up to me; through her I got to relive a moment of her pain and I listened intently. Julie didn’t have a father and her relationship with her mother was always a struggle. Her mother became an alcoholic after her father had left and constantly tried to take control over Julie’s life. As Julie shared her story and pain with me, something changed: I became spiritually closer to her and the others. The students were always busy studying they never got a chance to have much fun. On the last day, we had a water balloon fight and I still remember the students’ laughter, hopes, and struggles as they all resonate within me. It is through them that I continue to be motivated to connect and help my peers whether they live within five minutes away or halfway across the world.
Looking back on it now, this China trip was given to me so that I may grow during my time of adolescence. I still reread my journal from time to time and keep in touch with Julie and the other students to this day.
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