ACTCM in China: Reflections from Nikola

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.

With love,

actcm in china_nikola2