This is it. My trip to the People's Republic of China is over. In a few minutes I catch a bus to the airport. And in about 24 hours I'll land in charlotte and be back home.
This trip has truly been awesome. I've learned so much about this place, its culture, its language, and its people. I know I've written about this already, but what I've seen and experienced here was nothing like what you might expect if you only watch the American media's portrayal of China. They people here are friendly, smart, eager to help in any way they can, and just overall good people. The cities where I went, at least, are also very clean and modern and relatively "Westernized." China is really a great place.
The Chinese have a word that they use a lot: peng you (it's pronounced "pung yo.") It means "friends." It's very important in their culture. When they meet a new person, they want to treat them as if they are already a good friend. They tend to think of others before they think of themselves. They want to make sure you have as much as you need, and then some!
When students walk down the hall, you will often see them walking and holding hands. Usually a girl and a girl, although occasionally a boy and a boy. Never a boy and a girl. It's just a sign of how good of friends they are. You'll even see adults doing the same thing walking down the street.
When I had the students trying to teach me some Chinese during the down times, one of the very first things they showed me how to say was "we are friends." And they really wanted me to say it and pronounce it right. And to mean it - they wanted to know that I thought of them as friends.
And I can honestly say that I've made a lot of new friends here. The students were pretty awesome. Their desire to learn from me AND to teach me was inspiring. But I was their new friend, so of course that's what you would do for a friend. Some of these kids I'll never forget. And their crazy English names make it a little harder to forget, ha ha. The students all pick English names that are easier for English speakers to pronounce. Most of them are regular names, but sometimes they just pick random English words. Some of the funnier ones that I heard were: hamburger, pirate, ice frog, and silence (do you like any of those names for our baby, Christine?!) I also had about 3 Toms and 3 Jerrys in each class, since -for some reason - that is one of the most popular cartoons over here. But whatever their names are, I'll never forget Coco, a little boy who is very smart and who wants to ask a million questions and learn as much as he can. Or Dora, a very smart girl who has been studying English for 10 years (she's 13 now) and who wants to be an English teacher when she grows up. And a bunch of others like Julie, Lemon, Daniel, Georgina, Israel, and Jimmy. They are my Chinese friends.
The Chinese adults I met here were even more friendly. Mr. Li invited me into his home for dinner and was incredibly accommodating to us. Mary (the director) and principal Jiang were excellent hosts and showered us with gifts and gave us anything else we needed. And Benjy, who was our main helper here was the best friend of the bunch. His constant smile and his ridiculous desire to make us as happy as possible at all times was great. It's impossible to even look at him without getting happy. I'll really miss him when I leave.
I've also made some new American friends. I didn't know everyone on the trip before I came here, but got to know them over this hectic, exhausing two and a half weeks. This really was an excellent group of people that I feel honored to have been a part of. I do hope that some of these friendships that I've made here will continue on once we get back home.
Bit the "peng you" goes even deeper than all of that. When the students wanted me to say it, they also wanted me to say that the USA and China were friends. They said that they loved our country, but they were afraid that our country doesn't consider them a friend. And I don't think I can disagree with that point. And I know I'm only one person, and our group of teachers are only 31 people but id love to see real change in that area. Yeah, they have a communist government. But they also have McDonalds and cell phones and Justin bieber. They're a lot more like us they they are different from us. And if these two governments and countries and people can realize that, things would be a lot better.
So this is my final Chinese blog post, as I'm about to leave here. I will add a few more pictures over the coming few days though, so check for that. Thank you for reading. And the next time you get a chance to come to China, I highly recommend it! And the next time you hear anything about China, try to keep it in perspective. They are our friend. Wo ai zhong guo, & wo ai ni men! Wo men shi peng you!