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108 braids... the devotional representation of a sacred Tibetan number. Photo by Rebecca Thom, China Semester.

Bangdong Reflections

For the past two weeks, each member of the Bridge Year China 6.0 Group has been staying with his/her own host family in Bangdong, a hospitable tea-picking village in Southwestern Yunnan Province. Here is what the participants have to say about their experiences:

“Life lesson number one: a smile goes a long way.” –Frannie Block

“Every morning the cool fog rolls in for a refreshing run. Every afternoon the hot sun bakes my hand-washed clothes dry. Every evening the stars come out as our family gathers around the steamed peanut and TV” –Ben Dodge

“‘Mom, in my life everything is a race.” I retorted when my mother asked why I began to jog during our hike. I had spotted another family walking parallel to us on the other side of the creek and was determined win. At just five years old, I already understood that I valued speed and efficiency; and that I simply did not have time to stop and appreciate the fall foliage. Here in Bangdong, for the first time, I have been forced to slow down. I came into this experience expecting to grow restless and stir-crazy. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that on the contrary, I find village life quite relaxing. Last night, I gazed at the sky – which in Bangdong is filled with stars rather than light pollution. This morning, I found contentment simply silently peeling pea pods with my host mother. On my run this afternoon, I took a break to examine a cloud.”     –Owen Matthews

“During my time in Bangdong, I’ve come to recognize that patience is a mutual necessity in developing relationships., In truth, my family here has struggled as much as I have at adapting to the language barriers that come with our interactions, but I’m certain that managing these differences will have a rewarding outcome in the long run” –Kisara Moore

“The people of Bangdong have opened their hearts and homes to us, and have introduced us to the calm pace of life in their community. People here treat strangers as family, and are always willing to support other community members in times of need.” –Helen Reeves

“Me = Gregor Mendel. Bangdong = The Monastery.” –Braulio Romero-Bakker

“With a predictable schedule in the life of a tea picker, time begins to lose its focus in the village. Breakfast at 7:30. Tea picking. Lunch at 1:00. Tea picking. Dinner at 7:00. Tea making. Sleep at 10:00. My host family, when asked their ages, reply with ‘almost eighteen’ and ‘in my fifties,’ rather than with any set number. Though easy to call this life monotonous, repetitious schedules do not blur the vivacity of life behind tea picking – the vivid conversations of the women in the fields, the laughter of the children chasing insects outside, the joy in everyone’s hearts in seeing a new daughter born to my host uncle yesterday. Though largely unvaried in everyday work, the kind of hardworking and cheerful people of Bangdong are what make the town stand out.” –Ryan Sung