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Thoughts on Heading Home & Wrapping up 6 Weeks in China!

Hello All!

Yesterday morning we piled into cars, and made the trip to Kanasi airport, where we began the first leg of our journey home. We are now in Urumqi, resting, recouperating, and stocking up on snacks for our second leg to Beijing this afternoon, and then on to Los Angeles this evening!  Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts for sharing your children, grandchildren, friends, and family with us for the last 6 weeks. We have laughed until we’ve almost peed, cried, karate chopped watermelons, eaten enough yogurt for a lifetime, and learned invaluable knowledge not only about the historic Silk Road, but about each other. We are truly grateful.

All of the students have taken some time to reflect on their experiences in China over the last 6 weeks, and hoped to share these insights with all of you who have been dutifully following our path via emails, photos, and Yaks. Now.. Can you guess who’s who??

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One of my biggest misconceptions about China was my idea of hospitality. I never expected to feel so welcome everywhere we went. I think the experiences I have had on this course have made me more curious. Curious to learn more about the world but also the people I meet. I’m going to need some time to process the experiences I have had over the past 6 weeks, so please don’t be surprised if I can’t put it into words at first.

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A misconception I had about China was that I would be having rice at every meal. We did eat a lot of rice, but also noodles and different types of bread. Traveling through different provinces showed me that there is not one “Chinese experience.” Each place has different meats, grains, and vegetables. There were different languages and cultures, and it’s hard to believe they all fit under the same label of being “Chinese.”

Throughout this trip I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. It showed me that the only limits I have are those put on by myself and my fear of failure. As I was trekking to Hemu or getting water at a stream for my host family, I realised what I can accomplish and do once I put my nerves and fear aside.

Friends and family should know that going on this trip and experience new cultures has made me apprieciate all you have done for me. You provide food, toilets, showers, and so much more. Even though I learned that I can be indenpendent, I also learned how much I depend on you and how much I need you in my life.

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When I thought of China, I mostly thought of a homogeneous country, not one so diverse. I have realised that the image of China in the west excludes most of its culture and that there is no single, simple Chinese identity.

I am much more aware of consumer culture and of my priviledge. I have reflected on how I spend my time and how much of it I actually spend in the present. I have seen and understood the effects of blindly and boldly walking into people’s lives as an outsider. I have been able to step back and see the entitlement and disregard with which Chinese people do this and have reflected on westerners’ behaviour in similar situations.

My family should know that I missed them and that I’m grateful for this opportunity.

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One misconception that I had about China is that there would be free drinks, like cold water or there would be a seperate order for drinks. Most of the time, we were given hot tea and water.

I have grown in maturity as well as leading others toward positive growth. Also, opening up to others reveals that we’re not so different after all.

I want my family and friends to know that I want pizza every day for every meal for 3 days. I want them to know I love them very much.

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When I used to think of China, I would think of the bustling cities of the eat like Beijing and Shanghai. I thought cities like that defined all of China. After spending time here, I have realized that is not the case. China is a vast empire in which many religions, ethnicites, languages, and landscapes call home. The simple, and quite obvious realization is that not all of China is the same. This course really sparked my curiosity about China, and I hope I can come back and explore more soon.

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I thought that Kashgar and the other Uyghur cities would have more government presence. This trip changed me by showing me that I was truly privileged to be able to experience other places like this.

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China was not as rural as I thought it would be. Granted, there are many rural areas. What I’m trying to say is that I had minimal information about China’s economical and social state.

Personally, this trip has been a refresher for me. Almost like a wakeup call. I’m constantly lost in everyday life in the US, and I can forget what’s best for me. Learning and educating myself about a different culture has been indescribable, really. I feel more well rounded. I like the idea that these experiences have provided another lense to the camera of my life. Friends and family, please know that, when I come home, I will need time to rest and take care of myself.

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I thought that China was all about the Great Wall and booming industry. While those are factors, China as a whole is far more complex, with rich history and fascinating culture. While there are some political situations that I can’t stand, China’s people and geography are truly incredible.

I have learned quite a bit about myself, and have been able to reflect on how I’ve acted prior to this trip both internally as well as externally with how I react to others. It’s been an incredible and invaluable opportunity to examine myself and reflect while learning about a beautiful country. Whether I’ve changed or not, act differently or not at all, just know that I’m still technically the same person. It’s going to be hard for me to adjust or be self aware, so please be patient, listen, and know that I still love you.

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When I came to China, I wasn’t aware of all of the minority groups, and I didn’t imagine that being a foreigner would be as big of a deal. I thought there would be less squatty potties, and more soy sauce.

I feel like my flaws have become much more obvious to me, and I’ve become more aware of the differences and similarities between my own culture, and those I have been able to observe while on this trip. I think my friends and family should be conscious of the fact that I’ve changed while I was away, and returning home may not be as easy as I expected. Also, I have lots of sleep to catch up on.

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