Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Two Years in Peace Corps China

I want to acknowledge how special every friend I have made in the Peace Corps is to me, especially my site mate, city mates, and traveling partners who have made my time in the PC so great. I will miss all of my batshit students who made me laugh every second with their antics, fighting, and tomfoolery. I will miss all the loud-as-fuck people in my community who are never shy of showing they can be as crazy as they are kind. I will miss the old ladies dancing in the square at dusk to Russian club influenced pop-techno through a crackling rusty speaker. I will miss my students screaming at me in Chongqing dialect as they pound three times the amount of food as me yet remain three bodies smaller than me. I will miss my students being genuinely wrong about everything. I will miss bf/gf and ‘What should I do, teacher?’ talk with my students. I will miss my boy students showing me their new tattoos. I will miss sleeping on my couch (for 1.5 years), or in my tent on my bed when the mosquitos come. I will miss the old men slapping me on the back with leathered hands, pushing me into a parlay of beer and cheers. I will miss the lady teachers in my department drinking the men under the table. I will miss my environment being more threatening than the people. I will miss hiking or mountain biking into the countryside with the only intention of making friends and discovering new places. I will miss discovering different dynamics in friendships, exposing new proximities of closeness, new levels of caring. I will miss walking like a zombie because it is SO HOT outside, then spending 90 percent of my words on the heat. I will miss spicy food being the only food, like the devil kissed Chongqing cuisine.

I love Wanzhou. Service was more than I expected. I will not forget it and will do all that I can to repay the kindness I have received from the people of this place.

Some memories: 
(NOTE: many of these photos are out of chronological order, also many photos were not taken by me and I thank the takers of the photos for their efforts :)) 

 Host Father and Son fishing 

Young China 19

 Music with Ryan during our blistering summer at PST

 Picking rapeseed with Raines and Sean in the freezing cold for the Winter Pilot Project

Joss Sticks and Man at Liangping Temple near Wanzhou 

Camping at Enshi Grand Canyon 

 Students Building Showers at EcoCamp

Learning about grey water purifiers at EcoCamp 


Nature art at EcoCamp 

With Gabby on Maivy's secret rock during Hiking Club 

Timeout in the countryside 

 Deep into Wanzhou countryside on mountain bike

Camping and sunrise at Peace Mountain 

Building machinery warehouse  

Gansu people at traffic jam in Western Sichuan


 Family photo at Everest

Outside of Chengdu 

 Western Sichuan

Family Reunion in Guangdong Province

 Monastery Friends in Western Sichuan

 Stoopin ladies in Guangdong Province

Bouldering at Prestige's home in Wulong Countryside

 CQ Summer Project hiking

 CQ Welcome Party

 On top of Derrick's building 
 That day my jiaozi restaurant (tent) burned down

 Wanzhou host family

 Crazy student during military training



 Pomello Picking with English and Math depts. 

 Wanzhou Crew 

 Wanzhou Docks and Shrine 

 Mountain Shrine under Banyan 

A van's mirror is bent - downtown Wanzhou becomes entirely inundated 

 Jason, my closest friend in my community
 Old men swimming in Kaixian

 Heavy Machinery Drill Bit Sharpening Shop

 English Department

 Basketball at Wanzhou Special Education Center
 Fish Destroyer at Morning Market

 Frozen Cat

 Guzheng at IST


 Project Development Workshop 

 Wrote a song for IST

Basketball Tournament 

 Dinners with students

 Babawu (square dancing)

 Crossing the River in Getu, Guizhou Province

 When my students make profile pictures for me... 'Meiyou' means, don't have. My students say I don't love them because I will not date them... Welcome to my school. 

 Three generations of Three Gorges Vocational College volunteers shining

 Wanzhou Crew going away party 

 Speech Competitions

 Yading, Western Sichuan

 Singing Green Day at guitar shop during summer project

Summer Project full

 Mural Project at SEC

 Rollin Tortillas 

 Strawberry picking with teachers

 Summer Project

 Waterwall/River hiking in Hong Kong

 Skywalk in Yunyang

 English Association Christmas Card


 Music and dancing in the park everyday

 Jiaozi making with students

 Teaching my students how to play Ruan

 My school

 My students are really something else. There were 10 more ducks in a box below the desk. 

 Hot Pot and Chinese flute with students

 Wanzhou Crew 2

 Lantern Lighting 

CQ 19s Going Away Party

 These stickerd pictures are common. This on is my favorite. Lunch with Kiki. 


 My school

 I had 25 students see me off to the train station. Then they all sent me the same photo minutes after I left ;)

 At first, two years feels like the sweeping of an instant, an opaque gale, like I just arrived in Chengdu with my bags packed tight with books and shoes, another day. After recollecting the vast corpus of friends, conversations, trips, photos, songs, sights, sounds, agonies, and arcana and how they all connect, I have now, a collection of experiences that I can take with me into the future, a collection of experiences so full of love my caring voice is muted. My service in Peace Corps China was everything I wanted it to be.

One thing still taps my shoulder, like Poe’s looming black dog, the question I came to Peace Corps with the intention of answering or deciphering: what is courage? I have spent close to five years ruminating, researching this topic: close textual analysis of philosophical theories big and small, in religion, in literature, in the experiences, actions, and opinions I encounter in the world. From what I have covered so far, one idea sticks out boldly, a question I formed two years ago: have you ever felt brave? Have you ever truly felt courageous? If the feeling of courage exists, is it as strong as the feeling of love? Have you felt bravery like you have felt love? I believe the answer to what courage is lies in this basic question.

Briefly, remove all notions and connotations of battlefield or military courage from your thoughts. I am not concerned with this topic because most people in the world do not experience battle and war in their daily lives. I am concerned with non-warring livelihoods. Also, drop all academic and Hollywood generated analysis.

So, how does one identify the feeling of bravery? I don’t know, yet. Maybe you know.

But I do believe I have made ground. Without explaining my reasoning or justification for my claim, I believe the feeling of courage can be felt though dropping everything: leaving your life rooted in conditions, expelling your planned future, dropping financial security, selling your home, grinding your intrinsic beliefs, rejecting your culture, leaving love in the past, and just go, go do, live, live to live, living. . . life in a new place. Take command of your own time in this world. And, if you argue this can be achieved though books and movies, you will be left with the stories of others.

Nietzsche described it as taking a boat to a faraway land and never looking back. The Daoists say move to a thatched hut by yourself and reject all culture in the world. I believe joining Peace Corps is one way. At the end of my service I believe I achieved a courageous act for myself, I believe I felt brave. After thinking about the feeling for sometime, I have come up with an accurate description:

A nervous lightness of achieving something you couldn’t predict.

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