The group has spent the last few days visiting Hongming “Paul” Chen’s mother’s tire factory and his ancestral home (Jinzhou). At each stop, gracious hosts have helped create memorable experiences and provided a rare window into life for factory workers, generations of Hongming’s family, and the average Chinese citizen. It is hard to explain how valuable these relationships really are.
The hosts (& Mr. Fritz) made Moammar feel understood and important by cooking a Halal feast to mark the beginning of Ramadan. They ate a delicious lamb, which Moammar could not stop raving about, cooked in a traditional pit over charcoal and many other delicacies. Moammar felt at home, enjoying the highest form of hospitality and familiar flavors he doesn’t get very often when back at CCS.
Hongming’s mother ushered the group into the city of Jinzhou, where her infectious smile led the group into a public square where everyone danced, played and enjoyed alongside thousands of locals. She had been integral to the students’ experience in Beijing, but here she was free and, it seemed, happiest. Her vibe carried the group, as the kids put it, and they felt like they were able to help her relieve some stress in return. This kind of engagement underlines the value of relationships.
All of this has helped the students, who are themselves ambassadors for the rest of CCS, understand what life is like for our Chinese students. As Claude put it, there are certainly similarities that help bring people together, but also differences that one can’t appreciate without actually visiting the other person’s home. This trip has helped him realize that the unbelievably foreign can also be accessible and meaningful.
The entire group is so appreciative of family during these experiences. They marvel at the generations of Chens living so close together (there were at least 4 generations together at one point today) and consider their own families. This network of intimate and exotic has allowed each of them to want to slow down – to have the bearings to want to understand things more fully.
As the group tries to make sense of so much (including themselves), the generational mastery of hospitality has been invaluable. Having a frame of reference and a warm smile pushing you further, it turns out, makes all the difference!