The Bridge Year China cohort hasn’t been together for very long yet, but we’ve already experienced a lot together (see Michael’s yak!) — and our identity as a group is starting to take form in interesting ways.
Maybe the most obvious thing to note about our group is its cultural diversity. In addition to learning about Kunming, Yunnan, and China these past few days, I’ve had the chance to hear or participate in conversations about eccentric architecture in Manila, the relative merits of New York City and San Francisco, boarding school life, football fans in the UK, and political dissidence in the Ivory Coast.
But just as much as we are individuals from different backgrounds, the eight of us are also united in support of one another. The first signs of our capacity for teamwork manifest in the way we take turns carrying the med kit, work together to order and finish unfamiliar foods, and support each other’s emotional needs as we come to terms with how we will be percieved and treated in China.
By now you may be wondering, “What’s the catch?” because of course there’s a catch. We are still “deep in the honeymoon” phase, as Jesse and Mark have put it more than once, and before long, they advise, we will begin the storming process — small disagreements will add up like steam in a pressure cooker until our tempers explode and throw our harmonious dynamic on its head.
Storming is healthy within the context of Bridge Year, necessary even to build resilience and openness to discussing differences. But right now it’s a bit hard for us to imagine — the prospect of storming has become a running joke for us. We laugh at the polite requests we make to each other, placing bets on which one will cause someone to snap and push us over the edge into a full-on storm.
But as we embark on our month-long journey through greater Yunnan, part of me does worry that the patience we’ve allowed each other so far will show itself to be brittle, unable to bear the weight of obstacles larger than sharing responsibility for washing dishes or carrying jugs of clean water. Because, despite our sense of humor about storming, the eight of us are all far from home, and it’s been nice to be able to lean on the group without having to worry about encountering discord.
That said, I won’t let myself stress about it too much. I don’t have much experience navigating interpersonal conflict, but I see storming as yet another way that this year will push us to grow into stronger people. Being comfortable with discomfort is something we’re going to have to get used to. So, while none of us are holding our breath, when the clouds do roll in, we’ll be ready to embrace them with open arms.