Written by Anne Gribble
Nov. 2010 Shanghai, China
We didn’t pick China. China picked us. China picked us for a reason. As we experience life here in this very different third world country, each day I look for a glimpse as to why we are here. I know that we are here for a reason and as the days and weeks unfold, the reason why I am here has turned into many.
Our journey started with a family prayer. We prayed that God would send us where He wanted us, even if we didn’t understand. None of us did. We were all up for an adventure, one that we were afraid may change us into different people that may not be understood by those who know us best, but we had faith and trusted that God had a plan for each of us. But China?
It’s only fair that I speak for myself, as I know that my husband and children have their own personal journeys of faith. For me, I know this is where I am to be right now. I am here for 19 reasons. Those 19 reasons greet me with smiles and bravery each day. There are a few of those 19 that stand out and are more obvious than the others; however I know in my heart that I was meant to meet them, for them to change me, and for us to share our lives with each other for 180 days.
As I continue to discover why God lead me to China and as God continues to show me why each day; I can share with you why I love this crazy place so much and why I am glad I came.
I didn’t know that I was in a rut, but I was. I am SO NOT in a rut anymore. Nothing is familiar or comfortable. Nothing is routine, nothing is ordinary or boring. Every moment is interesting, exciting, hard, uncomfortable, frustrating, fun, and challenging. I am having to think all the time. How do I say that in Chinese? How can I act it out if he doesn’t understand me? How do I get there? Do I have enough money? How much is that in US dollars? Should I really do that? You’d think I’d be tired, but I’m not. It is very energizing. I feel so alive.
I like change. I’ve always liked it. I remember when I was 18, sitting at my desk in my bedroom and made that discovery. I gave myself permission to change the things that didn’t matter…my hair, clothes, favorites. At the same time I realized that it can be comfortable to not change things and I took pride in being faithful…same athletic club for 20 years, same hairdresser for 20 years, same house, same friends, same church, same husband. It was a conscious decision to give up all of the above, except the wonderful husband of course, and move to China. I didn’t change my friends, but I have changed which friends I see on a regular basis simply because of proximity.
I have had to make the effort to make new friends. This has not been an easy task and my actions have had to be quite purposeful in order to connect with others. Unfortunately time is another factor, I am not the most patient person and would really like to have new close friends NOW, but those deep roots take lots of shared experiences, trust, faith, laughter, and time. It’s a new experience (well, everything is new here) to have friends from all over the world and try to understand their accents. (They say I have the accent!) I guess I have to trust that will come with time too and I may learn some patience in the process.
I like it here because I see things every day that I’ve never seen before and most likely may never see again. Today it was a man riding a scooter with 50 big, Mylar colorful balloons. I tried to whip out my iphone camera to take a picture as he was coming right at me as I was crossing the street, but instead of getting a picture, I caused him to have to swerve around me because I was in his way. Yesterday, I saw my first mustache on a Chinese man who was sitting on the street corner on his bicycle selling music cds. He had a radio strapped to the back of his bike, playing one of my favorite songs – “I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again…”
Living among the wealthy and poor at the same time is such a juxtaposition of sensibilities. Black hummer parked on the sidewalk, next to a street vendor selling sweet potatoes from his bike. Starbucks next to a shanty community who wash their clothes in buckets on the sidewalk, McDonald’s next to a seedy massage parlor with ladies “lounging in the lobby” that’s open all night.
There are so many deformed people begging on the streets that it’s hard to look up. There is a man who has only a head, a small torso and one arm who rolls around laying on a skate board in front the grocery store. Crud, life sure is not fair. Doug usually carries around some change in his pocket to give way. One day he gave that man so many coins that he had a hard time holding up his cup. You should have seen the smile on his face. The smile on my face was even bigger watching my husband’s act of kindness, but the sadness of the injustice in my heart was heavier. I could turn, walk away into a large store and buy everything I needed and take a taxi home if I didn’t want to walk. As difficult as it is, I like living with this in my face.
When I read in emails or on Facebook about how life keeps rolling along back in the states and as I Skype with friends and family; I don’t want to leave my new home. I don’t miss being in the US as much as I thought I might. I don’t regret the missed parties and Bingo nights or holidays. I do wish my friends and family could come here and see what I see, experience what I experience. I know that is selfish and I don’t mean to belittle relationships at all; I just want to share something totally cool with the people I love the most. ****(Open invitation to EVERYONE and ANYONE who reads this rambling philosophical babble to come visit…)
There are characteristics of the US that I do appreciate more now that I ever have before. I didn’t realize that each and every day we breath clean air. I do miss clean air and look forward to breathing it again this summer. However, pollution does make for some beautiful sunrises and sunsets. For now, that will have to do. China is dirty and stinky and polluted, but that’s OK because its people are beautiful and it’s my home for now.