The Air Conditioning is Set so it Keeps Everything the Same
By Nina Benson
Can the air conditioning be turned off?
That would not be the same.
The silverware - it doesn't have a copyright symbol.
"Copyright means nothing here".
Over my spring break son three and I traveled to China to visit my husband who started out doing missionary work, but ended up with a job/calling. This, in itself is a story of mysteries and divine orchestration, (with tick bites while on a final trip before retirement, with his students, to bee stings, that should have been his last, to cancer scares… See another story…). However, before what I am impressed with leaves me, I would like to do something with it.
China! A vastly huge country. A vastly condensed country! There are as many layers to something that is suppressed, hidden, kept out of reach for so long that the living generations haven't a clue of what they don't have; as there are people. I talk like a presumptuous overbearing American. How dare, I? It's just, no stranger showed me really any kindness, any acknowledgement other than a little boy in an open market named Jonathan. He said hello and smiled. He was not afraid, but seemed to be acting on a dare from goading friends, who stood off at a distance. There was also the eighty-three year old woman at the MTR, train station, Stephen carried her wire scroller down the stairs while I gave her my arm to steady her as she walked slowly down – the wrong side of the stairs. People who had no time for her and did not heed her request for assistance, huffed and walked around. I and the old woman were annoyances.
I think this interaction is the epitome of what my visit with the people of China was like. Stephen would say, “it's all in my head”, but there was a general disdain for my existence, so I was ignored, saw through, as if invisible. When undeniably in the face of the Chinese people I was looked down upon – like how dare you come here. When I wasn't noticed or seen, what I saw were gruff, unhappy, empty people walking like in a trance, as if dead inside. When people were with friends there was very loud talking, some laughter, but momentary. It always died away.
How does a people become so? It's as if someone, somewhere is holding up giant signs saying when to laugh, when it talk, when to speak, otherwise there is the empty, the waiting to be told what to do next. It's as if the people move like the tai chi movements through life – slow and in sync with a purpose long since forgotten… Mechanical.
The mountains were beautiful and unimpeded from view from billboards. Still, in mainland where there was “urban” development there were very few billboards. This is good. Of course, what does the government give the people to dream for, to hope for. National pride? It does not not seem to make for joyful people.
The government in mainland, seems to make attempts at giving the people something that others are thought to have that seem to bring pleasures, like – pizza! Not the place to be if this is what you're looking for. Dough made from something like Bisquick with no sauce and a smattering of cheese with a varied assortment of fillings like, tuna salad! And for the Hawaiian pizza, a fruit that was indescribable, but chewy like rubber. It's the illusion of something that is just out of reach…
However, I think it's the lack of control and dependency that I'm experiencing that also colors my perceptions. There are many positives. The country has a natural beauty that leaves me breathless. The many mountains rising through the morning mist is very majestic. The faces of the children are impish and precocious. Seeing the elderly out and about, moving slowly, but going places, or sometimes doing small necessary jobs. Everyone seems to have a place in this foreign society. Everyone has a job that contributes to the collective. But still there is that nagging emptiness that I see in the eyes of so many.
This thought would not be complete without a mention of Hela-Lou, (I'm sure I've spelled her name wrong). She was a god–send when I was desperate for compassion. Son and I made it to Beijing on our trip home. It was our place of transfer. We were told that our connecting flight had been canceled. No reason. No explanation. Suck it up and take it. I was at the end of my rope as far as adventures go. I was simply happy with the thought of going home… Just to have my bubble burst. Fooled you! Home – just out of reach. Actually, it felt like someone had exploded everything. Once we landed there were the endless lines and the miles we walked carrying at least thirty extra pounds in luggage – each. I was hot and sweaty by the time we went through our last check point and showed our passports for the last time. The young woman was as sensitive to our plight as a dust bunny is to fur balls. She was merely the messenger. But you see, she lacked empathy. She did not see that I was a foreigner in a land where I knew no one. She did not care that I did not speak the language. She hadn't a clue that for several nights I had been awake nearly every hour on the hour. She did not understand that I longed for my home.
I started to cry.
I tried to keep it in, but all the weeks emotion had come to a head and hearing that we would be spending the next 24 hours in limbo was the straw that did it. I walked away from the counter and actually let son contend with the mess. But, there was a younger woman whose flight was also canceled, who was Chinese and as she eventually shared had spent four years in New York and was able to speak some English. She was our advocate. She explained that all was not lost and that we would have lodgings at a hotel with meals. Once at the hotel, she explained about the key card and how it turned on the lights and the time for our meals. She also wrote a note in Chinese for the driver who was to come and get us in the morning. She explained everything.
She showed us kindness.
The lost of control, unpredictability, and forced dependency when there is no show of empathy is frightening. I felt like I was at the mercy of the airlines. If I foolishly thought I had power, I was stripped of that fast. If I thought I mattered, I was wrong. But, I learned I was not alone. God had shown me goodness and mercy and showed me what faith is, in the face of adversity. Perhaps this is what is lacking in the hearts of the Chinese I had seen. Perhaps they have been made to believe that they have no control and must put their faith in and/or be dependent upon a government that has disappointed them time and time again. Perhaps they never learned that to put ones faith in man is to invite brokenness and need and want for something more – they only know how empty man’s words are and know nothing better at this stage of life. But to have an advocate – one who speaks on their behalf is everything – to not be alone. To have Jesus- our ultimate Advocate, is all one ever needs in this life.
|Photo taken by me at Big Buddha|