Life in the U.S. is very fast-paced. It seems that people try to fill each moment of their days with different activities whether it be working out or getting ahead in work. I live my life this way since I am working towards my bachelor’s degree while also being a Division I swimmer where I practice twice a day. I definitely enjoy being busy; however, at times I long for living life at a slower pace where there are no pressing deadlines.
When signing up for the ACE program in China, I knew that I would not be going solely for my own pleasure. Throughout the three week program I wrote four blog posts, the last one we got to write at home, I wrote an article, and also gave a presentation on Tibetan food. Furthermore, for a majority of the days we held a camp for the kids in town for a least three hours a day. Finally, there were various activities and trips the CERS workers and ACE leaders had planned for us. In between the activities, we often had chunks of time to hang out, workout, or work on the assignments. At first it seemed slightly overwhelming, but looking back on it I never felt stressed and enjoyed everything we had to do. There was always structure to the day, but there was not always a set time for when activities would have to begin, and our leaders would give us time to work on our projects if needed. Nothing ever felt very pressing, and I was never stressed.
Near the end of the trip Zhongdian started to feel like home to me. It’s very hard to believe I may not go back there again.
This more relaxed life that made my trip so enjoyable is reflective of the lifestyle in Zhongdian. At the CERS center, all the staff had things they had to do each day, but no one seemed stressed out or in a mad rush to finish tasks. I would often spend my free time sitting in the front of the CERS center relaxing or chatting with whoever. During these times I would notice that the CERS staff that did not have anything to do at the time would be doing the same as I was. From what I remember, they did not really look at their phones much, but they would simply enjoy the pure beauty of the landscape or enjoy the company they were with. It is hard to truly understand the relaxed lifestyle without experiencing it.
At the end of the last day of camp our students took us to see their homes. I ended up going to only one kid’s home where I stayed for an hour and a half. I was with two of my peers, and also Kalli, one of the program leaders who spoke Chinese. If it were not for Kalli our stay at Joe’s would have been much shorter. Joe, the student’s English name we gave him, showed us around his house and eventually introduced us to his father. His father invited us to stay for some tea, yogurt, and tsampa, an authentic Tibetan dish. After he served us, we all chatted for over an hour while I sat eating all the food he gave us. It was interesting to see how open he was to complete strangers interrupting his day because he honestly would have entertained us for hours and enjoyed every minute of it. He was one of the most hospitable hosts I have ever been a guest to.
Near the end of the trip Zhongdian started to feel like home to me. It’s very hard to believe I may not go back there again. The simple way of life where everyone is very friendly and hospitable made an amazing environment that was comforting. I will miss everything about it. Hopefully at Duke, where everyone is running around like headless chickens, I will be able slow things down from time to time and enjoy the little things more or talk to new people. Recreating the environment in Zhongdian would definitely be beneficial at Duke.