After almost two weeks, 18 lectures, visits to three major companies, study tours of major landmarks in China and walking nearly 25 miles in the process, the splendid 13 headed home after a whirlwind trip to China.
For months, the anticipation was nerve racking.
What would it be like?
Will I like the food?
What will the people be like? Will they accept us?
Can I handle the change in cultures?
Will I want to come home?
And now, in the blink of an eye, it was all over. As one viewed the faces headed back to their realities, they saw smiles, frowns, tears, and stillness. Smiles because of so many new, exciting, and memorable experiences. Frowns because they’d have to leave their beloved green tea behind. Tears because they had to return to the harsh reality of life in cities where they have higher odds of dropping out of school or ending up dead before they reach the age of 21. Stillness because it was all so much to take in.
Yes, it was hot and the pollution was something else. Oh, the oodles of information learned – “Ni hao! Wo xing Nicka, wo shu Megouren. Wo he ban kula.” Excitement? Seeing the faces of young Chinese kids as they squealed, grinned, and laughed because they had never seen anyone who looked and talked like them. Musings of deerbras, the discovery of chewy Jolly Ranchers, or the simpleness yet timelessness of drinking an ice cold Coca Cola in the heat between sessions.
The process that awaited was ordinary – pack up, leave the hotel, head to the airport…fly for 12 hours and go home. Yet, the steps that were taken to facilitate the process to get home were not ordinary. There was now something special and majestic about such a usually mundane process. The 13 young adults and 3 chaperones were not heading back to the Golden State the same. Every piece of clothing, piece of memorabilia, or even the gifts purchased for family and friends now had a memory or a story attached. The youth and chaperones now had the ability to paint a beautiful picture of a life changing experience, merely by calling up memories based on the objects they packed and the stories, laughs, and lessons that were now attached to them.
All of them had carried themselves, their family and friends throughout the process to get to the trip and the process of experiencing the trip. For some, it took almost an act of Congress to get them a passport. For others, the lessons began once they hit the ground in China. Nonetheless, the ability to learn and grow on foreign soil was now tangible and not just an effort forged by President Barack Obama. Supporting change and globalization is one thing, but being able to take part in it when you can’t even vote is extraordinary.
The hugs and goodbyes were tender. The words exchanged were unforgettable. The welcomes back were big and emotional. Tears flowed. All were glad. In the end, it was one of the best things they all had ever done, and they’ll live to share the new chapter of their story with the world.