One of the things that I loved the most about China was the fact that I was surrounded by people at almost all times. As I was typing that last sentence, my introverted self shrieked a little bit. I really value alone time, but what I've learned to value even more is time spent in relationships with small groups of people. For instance, that one night we went to a Karaoke bar in Nanjing...that night I wasn't such a fan of. Too many people (even if they all did have smiling faces), too much noise, & too many alcoholic drinks. However, dinner around a table with a few Chinese friends (who deserve an entire blog post devoted to them) and part of our crew from UNCW-- that was up my alley. There were nineteen in our group from Wilmington. We lived in a dorm with six floors, two suites on each floor, and normally two to three people lived in each suite. We each had our own room, but shared a bathroom, shower, living room, etc. Only a couple of us purchased SIM cards for our phones in China, so most of us could only use our phones to contact others over Wi-Fi. In hindsight, that's the only thing I would have done differently in China-- buy. a. freaking. SIM. card. At times this made our lives complicated, but the beauty and irony of it was that we actually interacted with one another more. If we needed something, we could walk two steps out of our door, and across the stairwell to the other room. When it came time for lunch or dinner, it was easy to make plans with one another by just walking downstairs, banging on their door, and asking. We also really needed one another. None of us but one were fluent in Chinese. We all knew bits and pieces, but not much. Whenever we went to a restaurant or wanted to take the subway or a taxi somewhere, we had four or five brains instead of one to get us there. Four or five different personalities, skill sets, beliefs, life experiences, etc. We opened ourselves up and became vulnerable. Crying together was a regular ordeal. So was laughing together. Our inside jokes are still going as a matter of fact.
There are so many other aspects of my time in China that I'm grateful for and so many things that have turned my world upside down and shaped me. But I think that ultimately it was the people, whether they were from Wilmington or China, that made every battle with the U.S. Passport agency (that's a story for another day) worthwhile. Since I've gotten back it's caused me to value the people right in front of me in my day to day life even more. From the couple that I see walking around campus every morning or my friends at Hibachi Bistro, to my professors, co-workers, running buddies, friends, church, and family. They are the ones who whose faces, character traits, and stories make every day a new adventure.