I set off into the warm afternoon and into the Sunday bustle. Walking down the dusty street, I pass by dozens of vendors (eyeing their produce carefully), past the corner where old men play cards, and down to the bridge. It is much quieter here and I quickly find the paved pathway that winds along the river. I had remembered spying this path a few weeks earlier and was excited to explore it on this beautiful autumn day.
My feet wandered down winding paths through the woods, discovering hidden trails among the brush. My ears rejoiced at the sound of crisp leaves crunching beneath my feet! And like my feet, my mind wandered aimlessly, reflecting on the blessings and struggles of this week.
The Lord has been bountiful this week, propping open doors that had been closed or revealing new paths that had been covered with leaves. Eventually I hope to explain all of these doors, but some will have to wait until I can actually begin to step through the doorway. Instead, I will elaborate on the language door. As I have expressed, it has been incredibly difficult to build a feeling of community here due to my lack of language skills. I have been disappointed at myself the past few weeks for not pursing Mandarin as diligently as I would like. Amidst lesson planning, grading, and the extra obligations that pop up, I have found it difficult to find time everyday to practice. But despite this frustration inside of me, the Lord has shown me this week that no matter how basic my conversation skills are, I can still build relationships and be encouraged by it!
My neighbors are a cute old couple, who I see sporadically. I have had a goal to get to know them, and this week I had my first chance. I passed by Mrs. Neighbor in the hall as usual. Normally we will exchange a smile and continue walking, but as I contemplated if I had the courage to say something to her, she surprised me by talking first. Like most people, she was wondering where I was from. I responded that I am from America and that I am a teacher at the University, oh and by the way, my name is Maria. I’m not sure if she actually told me her name, cause if she did, I didn’t pick it up, but I was encouraged by this little moment and hope that we will continue to talk.
Children are fun to talk to. When walking past them they often can’t control their facial reaction and I find myself holding back my laughter at their expression of awe! Many of them will say a hearty, “hello” or “good afternoon” as an attempt to practice their English (and see how I will react). At this invitation, I normally respond in English but then ask a question in Chinese. Often they are too shy to continue the conversation or they start speaking too fast and I am lost, but it is an attempt all the same.
I pray that these paths continue to be cleared and that I may have the strength to continue exploring. I ask that you pray for diligence this week- diligence in studying Mandarin and confidence in speaking it outside of my apartment.
P.S. Our heat has officially kicked on, as regulated by the government, despite it being a 70-degree weekend, but cold a comin’ this week!