Monday, October 5, 2009

Beautiful Cultural Exhaustion

I have just returned from 5 days of vacation (or "holiday" as they say here) staying with a friend in Hong Kong and then visiting her small hometown/village of Dongguan for Mid-Autumn Festival.

I am absolutely culturally e x h a u s t e d !

This past month of September was busy: first month of school, getting back into routine and schedule, planning lessons, new students, new Chinese classes, connecting with friends outside of school, and trying to balance my heart and head. It finished with 8 days vacation and the chance to see and experience some Chinese culture as never before.

After boarding a train (I find train travel rather romantic by the way...) we traveled a quick 45 minutes to the small town of Dongguan, China. We grabbed a taxi and made our way to her home in the city: a four-story cement and tile home with a gate, patio area, and room for PLENTY of family. I spent the 2 day period with about 25 family members, visiting 100 year-old ancestral temples, viewing small clustered family homes in now abandoned villages, walking through farm land, eating raw sugar cane, touching the leaves of growing vegetables, chasing chickens, seeing Sally's home in another village, walking ancient streets, seeing rural Chinese life, hiking hills in the setting sun, watching ancestral worship practices, experiencing a fire dragon dance in the town square, taking photos, seeing faces and places I have never dreamed of.

Before all this chaos of the senses, I was able to be quiet and read a bit and was greeted with a verse that I so want to exemplify my heart, my soul and my life, now and always:

Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.

- Proverbs 30:7-9

I have experience so much, both around the world and in China, that has challenged me deeply on what it means to truly have enough, on how to live, fully. I have slept on floors, under stars, on planks, in makeshift beds, in churches, in tents, in hotels, in homes. I have eaten with my hands, with chopsticks, sat on stools, in the dirt, in buses, on chairs, and eaten foods I would never have tasted otherwise. I have showered with buckets, in fancy showers, with hot water, icy water, in old pink tubs. I have rubbed shoulders with people who have more than plenty, and I have sat with people with almost nothing. I have found joy both places - but it's usually with the less.

What do I truly need in this life?

I only want enough. That is what HE promises to those who are HIS children. But what is enough? I am learning more and more that it is: the love of family, of friends, clothes, no matter what color or brand, sturdy shoes, a full tummy (of rice, vegetables, or even chicken feet), a roof over my head. I want to constantly be dependent on HIM and not myself, so that I may see that HE is the sustainer of my life, not me. It is not my working, striving, or saving. While good, it's all a matter or perspective and motivation. I want to truly believe that in riches or poor, HE is faithful, present, and providing. Always. Giving enough.

Dongguan, China: A beautiful yet broken city, one bound in tradition and superstition, one of age and simplicity, one full of family, who despite differences, are still family.

I am grateful to have walked in their shoes for a day.


James Rosenberg said...

wow jenny what a beautifully inspiring post. thanks for letting all us blog readers enjoy the depths of your heart, and it is deep.

i am curious to know where your heart leads after a month like this. do you find yourself more inclined towards the people "with less" in the villages or the people "with plenty" maybe in the city you live in?

Dave said...

jenny -- karen here.....

LOVED reading your heart! What amazing experiences to ponder and increase your global view. He is SO big and He wants you to know it!

Jordan River said...

I love it so much that you are able to live in all that you experience. Thoroughly enjoy the way you write.