This week we feature a personal reflection from Nikola Zunic one of our six students who is in China completing a three month scholarship at Henan University.
Reflections from Nikola
It feels like it was not too long ago that I wrote my first impressions of being here. Now, almost two months later, many adventures were had, many lessons learned, some forgotten.
First and foremost, being in a different place really helps to mirror what kind of person I am. The environment wears down the defenses, maybe puts up new walls, but in the end shapes and molds me just the same. For a time here, I began to look at the environment and people around me, and began looking at the way things should be, if you understand what I mean by that, then you will know that will lead to dissatisfaction and alienation. Why are they so hyper-capitalist? Don’t they understand that material culture will merely lead them to a place of servitude and enslavement? Why do they seem so rude sometimes, especially to those of a “lesser” position? How can they just throw trash on the floor? I mean everywhere, even in pristine cliffs and gorges, and caves, you can find a water bottle stuffed in a crevice.
And then, one day, I was sitting eating noodles, and it was a shop run by what appeared to be a wife and husband. How can I tell? Well, they hardly spoke to one another, the communication was at a deeper level. And as I sat there and ate, I thought to myself, what are their lives like? Obviously, they make a delicious bowl of noodles, but what else? And then it hit me… They are no different from me, or from anyone else I have ever met, or anything else that has ever come to existence. They feel, need, cry, laugh, breathe, and they are an extension of a greater whole, a unique expression of it for sure, but still fully immersed and inseparable. So, instead of looking at the situation as what should be, a calm contentment came over me and I felt what is.
But, I am missing a lot. I can’t speak to most of the people here. I can, say little things, but I can’t really talk to them. But, a smile goes a long way here. When walking down the street, and I feel a pair of eyes on me, I just find them and smile, because that is all I got. An old man talked to me through a translator one day at the clinic. He saw me writing Chinese characters and was happy to see that, and even sat next to me and tried it himself.
I am feeling a little sentimental and preachy I suppose. But, I did learn some very important lessons here. First and most important one: My classmates and I came here thinking we will learn some ancient Chinese Secret. What I have realized is that the secret was already taught to me, but damn, I was not listening at the time. Perseverance and a love for what you do, that is the secret, and this is found in the basics, the tiny little webs that hold everything else up. A few number of people reminded me of that, Dr. Song, Dr. Yang, Zhou Qi…
So, with about a month left, I am really starting to miss the familiar faces I always use to see, but look forward to seeing those new ones I’ve met here as well. Home can be anywhere… I have a week or so left in the oncology department and then a few weeks in a gynecology. I am looking forward to them all. Looking forward to going to the antique mall today. Just looking forward to being.