To everything there is a season (hum with me, turn, turn, turn, turn), a time to be born and a time to die.
A teammate has recently had a baby. Watching the new life grow within her and then getting to hold this beautiful baby … oh the joy! Another teammate experienced five deaths over a six month period this year. Oh the stunning blow after blow. We have more rituals and routines around beginnings than endings. Often beginnings are filled with anticipation and the joy of learning. Endings, however, can be foisted on us and are flavored with letting go and loss.
I do not like grief because I do not like pain, but I am committed leaning into and not away from loss. This is “Beginning and Ending Week” on The Messy Middle.
Today we revisit Sarah and Lee who are almost done with their first semester in China (woot, woot!). They shared with us in August (and thanks to Lee I get hits several times a week for “modern day foot binding”).
The next three days will consist of a three part interview with Connie Gibson, a colleague who has battled cancer valiantly but her time in China is coming to an end (Lord willing she will be able to be in China next semester) and I hate that. I do not want to wait to share with her loved ones what she has meant to our organization after she is gone, I want to share with Connie herself and allow you to walk this path of ending with me.
Remind us –where are you, size of your team, your teaching schedule and responsibilities, and your living situation. What’s something fun you have done with your students?
Sarah: I’m in Zhengzhou, Henan. I’m on a team of five. I teach 8 classes: 2 freshman oral, 3 sophomore oral, and three post-graduate oral. I have a great apartment. I’m very happy with it. I’m on the six floor, so I also have built-in exercise. I’ve been doing lots of cooking with students. I’ve learned to make many traditional Chinese dishes.
Lee: In Nanchang, with a team of four adults and two kids. I teach on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. English corner on Thursday night and have Movie Night on Friday night. I live on campus in a single dorm. It is great! I have played basketball with several students, very fun.
Sarah: any adventures to share?
I had an adventure trying to get back to my campus from downtown (usually an hour trip). My friend and I were trying to catch a cab, but couldn’t hail an available one. So, we decided to just take the bus. We hoped on one of the most crowded buses I have ever been on. After a few minutes, we started to smell gas. After another five minutes or so, the bus pulled over and told everyone to get off. We were in the middle of the city, no idea where. Any taxes that came were claimed by one of the other 100 people that just got off the same bus. The bus stop was pure chaos. We decided to just start walking, hoping to find a taxi. After 30-45 minutes of walking, a taxi pulled over to let someone out. Someone else was still riding, and we begged to share the cab. We rode to the other person’s stop, and then finally got back to campus.
Lee, have you gotten a haircut? How was it?
My haircut was great. I tried to use Google translate to tell them that I don’t want it very short. But It didn’t work. But luckily a girl was there that spoke enough English to help.
Share something you thought you understood in August, but now, several months in, you see a bit differently (could be about China, team, teaching)
Sarah: In all actuality, I thought Chinese culture would be much more different than I have found it, but that may be because I am surrounded by college students fascinated with Western culture and trying to imitate it. Yes, there are many, many differences, but not as many as I had expected.
Lee: I thought teaching was going to be harder. I think teaching takes more time to prepare, but is a lot easier once you’re in the classroom.
In what ways have the newness of China rubbed off? Anything kind of annoying these days?
Sarah: I’m a little annoyed by the constant stares. I can never blend in. When I walk down the street, everyone stares. I miss being able to just be part of the crowd.
Lee: The newness has not rubbed off, or I just like China…dunno.
What do you enjoy about living in Zhengzhou or Nanchang?
Sarah: Our campus is away from the city, and it is so beautiful. I pass thousands of beautiful trees on my way to class. Also, I love my students. They are really amazing.
Lee: I really enjoy my campus. It is very spread out and has lots of nature. We have a canal, 3 lakes, and great landscaping
November is known for being a hard month your first year (missing holidays in the US and no breaks in teaching) — have you found this to be true?
Sarah: A week ago, I would have said that November was no different than any other month. But, then my family started talking about their Thanksgiving plans. It will be hard to be away from them during the holidays. I think the ‘honeymoon’ is over.
Lee: Nope, I’m not having any problems. Maybe it’s because I have Wed and Fri off?!?!
Finally, is there a passage of scripture or attribute of God that you’re seeing in a new light?
Sarah: I’m seeing Him as my sustainer. I didn’t even realize how little I relied on Him at home. Now, I see my need much more clearly. His grace is so deep, his love so true. He sustains me, even when I am missing my family and friends immensely. He sustains me when I fill my schedule too full and need rest. He sustains me.
Lee: I am reading through Exodus several times. Learning more about his grace and mercy to a “stiff-necked people.” Also reminded of how I am “stiff-necked.”
Thanks Sarah and Lee for allowing us a peek into your lives as you make China your home. Next week will be part one in the interview with Connie Gibson as she shares some of the truly amazing accomplishments in the classroom.
Question for you – which do you do better with? Beginnings or endings?