A Different Type of Language - My Family Travels
My Classmates and Me at the School Where We Volunteered in the Dong Village.
Holding Hands and Tea Leaf Picking with a 4th Grade Girl
A 4th Grade Girl from the Dong Village with the Wind in Her Hair
The View from the Gazebo that Overlooked the Rice Terraces and Tea Fields

I wake up in a wooden hotel, the musty smell of morning fills the air. I get out of bed, hearing the creaking of the wooden floors beneath my feet. The entire hotel must have heard this through the thin floors and walls that could barely conceal a whisper. Tiptoeing quietly, I look outside my window and take in the entirety of the Dong Village’s beauty: hundreds of uniquely crafted rice terraces, tea farms, and streams. Quickly and quietly, I get ready for a day full of friends and new adventures. I step outside my quaint hotel room and see the hotel owner’s son running up and down the stairs, trying to see if anyone is up. His eyes fall upon me and he runs over, grabs my hand, and begins taking me down the stairs and outside. With the language barrier in mind, I attempt to use my limited knowledge of Chinese to ask him where he is taking me. He does not reply, but instead keeps holding my hand and taking me up the hill where the village’s only school resides. At the top, we see a group of 4th grade girls that I recognized from yesterday’s English lessons– the boy and them exchange a few words and soon the girls are leading me further up the hill. My anticipation heightens as I see a gazebo and a couple benches at the top. The little girls sprint to the gazebo and all lay down, wind blowing their hair out of their faces. I finally reach the peak and immediately recognize this as one of the best moments of my life. Laid out before me were endless rice terraces and tea fields, all sloping down into a vast canyon. There were wild flowers engulfing my every foot step and the fresh air eased my tired lungs with each breath. One of the little girl’s holds out her hand to me and inside there are purple wild flowers. She hands them to me and begins taking me further down into the tea fields towards a bench consumed with tea leaves and draped with vines and wild flowers. She sits down and signals for me to follow. She reaches for my hand and we hold the flowers together, not saying anything, but just taking in the perfection presented before us. As we sit there for the last few seconds and continue to hold hands, I understood that the language barrier was no longer an issue; all of us could communicate with each other through our emotions and souls. I have never felt so attached to people or a place before in my life.

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