Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Past and the Future

This trip to Yunnan Province has been different from the other dozen or so trips we have made within China. I think the rural and remote nature of the area has been a striking difference to the other major cities. It has not been an easy trip, as the physical demands of the heat, humidity, sanitation and transportation have been challenging. Yet, I have learned so much about the minority groups that make up this area, and their way of life which stresses living in harmony with nature.

Being in these remote areas makes me think about the people that make up our world-their challenges, their aspirations, their hardships. As we travel, we encounter lifestyles and behaviors that are quite foreign and different from our own. Yet we share common hopes - to raise our children, saving our money so they will have the best education and a good quality of life. It makes you realize that it is a common thread that permeates much of the world, but the challenges people face in other countries are so much greater than our own. I think the challenges these people face as commoners is so great, as is the competition for survival and success. There are simply so many people competing for so little resources, that the sense of friendliness, customer service, and kindness that we see in our society is sometimes difficult to find among the masses. I see glimmers of change in the major cities, especially among the educated population.

Beyond the food, the scenery, and the museums, what is special, is the perspective we gain about people. I think that is what I take with me when I leave. Experiencing the world and its people makes me better understand why people see the world the way they do, and why they behave as they do. It is not possible to expect people in other countries to accept western doctrines and policies as their own.

What I find most heartwarming is the effort that Robert, Jen and Julia put in to trying to communicate in Chinese. It is empowering, especially for Jennifer, whose boldness has visibly developed in these past 2 weeks. There is an underlying strength that has appeared and that I hope will continue to be nurtured.

China changes each time we come here. A lot of the old gets torn down and much of the new looks the same. People in the cities are becoming more and more westernized and it is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between native and overseas Chinese when in China. The most colorful part of China still exists in its rural villages - the minority women in their traditional costumes chanting folk songs, and the rural farmers with baskets on their backs climbing the tiered rice paddies - I know in the passing decades, these too will be gone.

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