letter to students

i'm having trouble composing what feels like a suitable "china-synopsis" letter to share with you all, regarding my journey here in china over the past three months... this morning, sitting on the train and sharing old music with students, watching the landscape roll by so quickly, a letter came... for my students. it sums up a few of my feelings regarding being here. maybe another letter will come before i leave china... and maybe not. i hope you enjoy this one :) (note: i wrote this for my students)

- jiling

barbie, maria, patrick, seon woo, dae yeong, jose, jamie, edwin, akane, tony, sok hwan, seonjin, carly, nakyung, emily, jiho, jisu, dickson, anthony, will...

21 students. i know. we keep counting and recounting to make sure you're all still here. 21 individuals. 21 teenagers around ages 16-17 in grade 11, taking a really heavy courseload of difficult classes, and spending one precious week with us and a school, a village--- an experience in a small village in the relative backwaters of china--- changing lives, moving hearts, and re(creating) your own young lives.

who ARE you? you'll ask this question an infinite number of times throughout your life--- you'll ask yourself, your family, friends, strangers. you've experienced this question as hordes of small children flock to touch your shoulders, shake your hands, give you a hug, as for your autograph. how do you answer to "who ARE you?" what do you see when you look into your own eyes in the mirror? when you look into the eyes of the "other"--- loved ones, strangers--- who do you see in there? and, who is reflected back?

kayaking is and was not just kayaking. going blindfolded through the jungle, you're not just trying to "see" with your feet, and illuminate your sense of hearing. the stones you trip over, the waves that seek to wash over you--- how do you get over them? because, you have done this. you know how to do this. you have an irrepressible strength that carries you through all your young (highly brave, highly inspiring) travels. you carry a bright pearl inside of you that no dust of this world will ever cover up, because you can see it. you KNOW it is there. even when you think you forget, well no--- it's still there. it's always been there.

who ARE you? (more amazing and full of Heart than even you could ever imagine).

xing'an, this trip, is only a small chapter of a long story. what is next? well ofcourse twelfth grade, and then for most (all?) of you, college. and then...?

you've traveled. you're lucky to know the triumphs and challenges of many realities of this life: saying goodbye (metaphorical deaths) to loved ones, beloved places, and the comfortable securities of routines, familiar faces and places, etc--- and then the bittersweet (oftentimes brief) hellos again. you know different cultures: different traditions, different ways of looking at the world, different languages--- but (somehow) basically we're all the same. you know more than i could ever (possibly) even imagine because the complexities of our minds and individual experiences wrap together into beautiful dances, each time unique and utterly indescribable... all this language only an attempt at describing the indescribable (how am i doing?)

i'll try to be more literal--- i've loved every moment with you "kids." (in some ways, already more adult than i will ever be). i have renewed hope for our future, and trust in our youth (that's you! our youth. our future... wow, yeah?) i see beautiful visions for the future with all your bright eyes, bright faces, and bright optimism in your young lives.

"BE the CHANGE you wish to see in this world," said gandhi.

you're so much fun, so full of life and light, and more--- i'm grateful for this week with you young world-changers, beauty-bringers, and laughter-sharers. i'm grateful to you for so bravely walking your strengths into this world... and encourage you to continue looking as deeply inwards as you look outwards. so much beauty in every direction...

thank you