Thursday, July 03, 2008

Feeling Foreign

Around eight years ago Christy and I traveled to China to visit her parents who have been living and working there for the past 21 years. It was an amazing trip for me for a number of reasons. For one thing, Christy had grown up in China and I was finally going to get to connect with that part of her past. I was finally going to put faces with all the names and stories I had heard for years. This trip was also a big deal for me because I had never left the U.S. before; in fact, Nashville was about the biggest city I had ever seen. When we landed in Beijing I was completely blown away. I should have been wiped out from the sheer ridiculous length of the journey, but adrenaline was coursing through my veins as our taxi passed Tian An Men Square and I saw more humans and kites in one place than at any other time in my life. Over the next few days we stood on the Great Wall, walked through the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven. We haggled the prices of American branded products in the Beijing silk alley and ate the most interesting and amazing food ever.

We journeyed south to the island where my wife lived as a little girl and I walked through the alleys and down the cobbled streets where she rode her first bike over the toes of an unsuspecting woman carrying her groceries. I met people who had previously only existed in stories… I saw Lao Zhou’s piano and actually heard him play and sing Silent Night in 4/4 time as advertised. I ate “bang bang bing” and held Christy’s hand as we walked past “The Rock” which was her favorite play place as a little girl. It was so cool to be able to enter into Christy’s story in this way, but it was also hard…

My Chinese is very, very limited and the Fu Zhou province is no East Tennessee. After a few days I got used to the sweltering heat and the total lack of air conditioning, but it took a little longer to get used to the absence of real-live coke products. Everywhere I went in Southern China I felt strange. I couldn’t have many conversations and I was a head and a half taller than everyone (and there were a lot of everyones to be taller than). One time we needed directions to a certain place and I suggested (in Chinese) that we ask the hotel employee across the room. Everyone started to laugh at me… apparently I had actually suggested that we kiss the hotel employee rather than ask him. Ha ha.

During this trip I learned what it is to feel like a foreigner. I know what it is to not belong. I know how it feels to be on the outside of the jokes, and I know how it feels to be the punch line. I loved China, but I didn’t really fit there.

I was reading this week in John 15 where Jesus said, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” I realized in reading these words again that I don’t really want to ‘fit’ in this world... not even here in East Tennessee. I want my life to belong to Christ and be so identified with Him that I am on the outside here. I want my love and compassion to be so outrageous and otherworldly that I seem like some kind of alien… like a foreigner on this planet, even if it means being hated. I want to be on the outside because if I am, I know for sure that I am His.

Here are a few pics from that trip... by the way, my old (and quite nostalgic) camera displayed the date as being 1994 no matter what year it actually was. Here we are at Christy's old house on the island of Gulangyu right off of the southern coast of Xiamen:

Christy at the Temple of Heaven:

I look photoshopped in here, but it's the real deal at the Summer Palace I think:

Here we are at the Forbidden City, which by the way was called that not because people were forbidden from coming in, but because the emperor was forbidden from leaving... weird huh?

At the Temple of Heaven... All of the outrageous detail on every square inch of these structures was crafted out of wood and hand painted in the 14th century... no smoking please:

1 comment:

Christi Noe said...

What a great reminder about our home. Thanks, friend! PS Love the photos!

Cluster Map