Going to China and experiencing the love and selfless spirits of the people has left a deep impression on my heart. The Chinese people, particularly the students whom we worked with and befriended in Anshan, were always going out of their way to make sure that our needs were met. Most of them had hardly any kind of material wealth, and yet they would try to constantly pay for dinners and other outings. I recall on one occasion, while I was dining with the students in my group, I excused myself to go to the bathroom with the intent of paying for the bill. I had learned this trick by observing the locals and I thought I was being slick. As I was about to pay, I was grabbed by both arms and literally dragged backwards away from the cashier! They told me that if I paid they would be angry with me and that it was Chinese culture for them to take care of their guest. Later in our trip when we were planning on taking some people out to eat, in order to ensure that our guests would not out maneuver us, Sam Eto and I went to the restaurant the day before to tell the staff that only one of us was allowed to pay.
On several occasions we would go to eat at a restaurant with our friends and rather than eating they would hover around us grilling or boiling our food, and then going even further to keep our plates filled with whatever they thought we needed to eat. Needless to say, this was very awkward at first. I soon learned to just say “xie xie” (thank you) and enjoy the food. Their actions rubbed off on me, and when I would imitate their hospitality with my fellow UAB class mates and other Chinese people that we would entertain, I experienced a feeling which I cannot find a word for, the feeling of taking care of someone and making them comfortable.
With the Chinese, it is of course about who is the host and who is the honored guest. So if you are a good host then you will ensure that all the needs of your guests are met before they can raise a finger to meet them themselves or even better yet, being a step ahead by knowing what they are about to need. To be a good guest you will politely and graciously accept what you are given, being sure to express your gratitude when you toast your host.
Another great example of the genuine caring hearts of our Chinese friends would be when it came time to leave Anshan to go to our next destination. Our friends took us out to dinner, giving us very personal gifts. When it came time to go our separate ways the whole group sent us to our hotel door, refusing to leave until we went in and were out of sight. All parties shed tears. Some even returned the next morning and sent us off to the Airport which was in a neighboring city almost two hours away. They waited with us until we went through customs and then had to find their own transportation back to Anshan. All that, after only three weeks!
The kindness and selfless giving that the people of China gave to me really struck a chord. Their actions and attitudes opened my eyes to just how selfish and self-seeking I am. I hope that I can stay as conscientious of my actions and motives as I am now and not become insensitive to those around me.