One week gone already?! This is my thought as I sit down to write my first post. The time each day flies by from the moment our team wakes up to do yoga with our resident yoga enthusiast: Kalli McCoy, to the time we all collapse into bed after games, planning, and reflections. Despite the busyness three words stand out to describe my experience thus far. The first word is fascinating.
I chose fascinating because everything from the people to the plants is teeming with history and purpose. Hundreds of years of tradition stand behind the customs, art, religion, and ecological life. For example, in many Tibetan homes there are eight different symbols that represent different attributes of Buddhism to be sought after such as purity, the path to enlightenment, the crown, harmony, thoughts of the Buddha, happy marriage, victory, and treasure. Without the context and knowledge of the history and purpose behind these symbols, I would have missed understanding how interwoven Buddhism is in the typical Tibetan home.
The second word I would choose to illustrate my first week is deepening. This word ties in closely with fascinating. The process of navigating my new environment has been both challenging and exhilarating but even more it has provided me new perspectives on the differences between the west and east. On the first day we had a workshop examining some of the ways that the Chinese and Tibetan people interact with their environment. Two customs that I found unique were the ways that eastern cultures communicate. It is very common in restaurants for people to shout for what they need. However, in a work scenario, certain eastern cultures use a very circuitous and indirect way of communicating in order to keep from offending anyone. This seems counterintuitive to a western brain, but fits in perfectly with the value of harmony that is cherished by Chinese and Tibetan.
“The adaptability of our group was a special thing to see.”
My final word would be unpredictable. As I was preparing for this trip I asked previous ACE participants what qualities they felt would be the most useful to me throughout this experience. Adaptability and flexibility were both words used by several of the previous ACE participants as an invaluable quality for the program. I learned why this was earlier this morning when no children showed up for our camp! Today was supposed to be the second day of our camp and, unbeknownst to us, the village chief decided that our program was not beneficial to the kids in the village. Our whole team was disappointed at this turn of events but the day was not a loss. A few of the staff working at the CERS center here had children that let us play English games with them and they, in turn, taught a few of us some Chinese words and phrases. I felt that throughout this whole day our group worked through some disappointment and confusion to still create a special and exciting experience even though it was not what we had planned or envisioned. The adaptability of our group was a special thing to see and gave me my final word to describe my experience this first week.