The following was received today from Isaiah Enochson, a Drake student that is part of Ashworth Road and is with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship serving in China for five weeks this summer:
I have been in China for a week now and am already loving it. I have not gotten sick or really suffered from jet lag since we arrived. So far, I have managed to just soak in the wholly new culture, though it is strange to think that it is the evening here while I type this, but back home it is not yet 5am on the same day... Anyway, in the past seven days we have explored a bit of the city of Beijing (including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and many small shops and restaurants), walked over 11 miles along the Great Wall, and picked up a little bit of Mandarin along the way.
On Wednesday morning we arrived in Yinchuan after a somewhat comfortable 12 hour train ride from Beijing. Once arriving at Ningxia University we were assigned our Chinese language partners for the month. As there were only four male students from the university participating in the summer program, most of the American males (including myself) were assigned a female student to work and hang out with during the day. It threw me off a little bit as I was sure that I would be living with a student for the month, but I have gotten the opportunity to room with one of the male staff members and it has been great getting to know him over the past few days.
The excitement of our language partners to be participating in this program seems to continually surpass the Americans' (which is sure saying something). They are all eager to learn all that they can from us and practice their English skills with native speakers, though many speak/write it very well already. In return they have been very gracious with hosting us and taking us around to explore the city surrounding the university. In just two days I have tried hot pot (basically the Chinese version of fondue), tried their favorite places to get ice cream, and sang karaoke in one of the many huge establishments dedicated to it.
In addition to karaoke, I have found other opportunities for music to be a great bridge builder between our two very different cultures. There have been many times that my guitar has been brought out by myself or other Americans who also play in order to jam with, and sometimes even teach, the Chinese students. One particular instance that happened just last night particularly stands out in my mind. One Chinese university student (who was not a part of our program, but happens to be living on the floor above us) came down while I was playing with his own guitar in tow. We then played a Chinese song together (he sang and we both played). Though he spoke very little English, it was just a really sweet moment where two cultures could be come together, without the conflict or confusion, and simply just exist together.
I would just like to end this by saying thank you for being a part of this adventure and supporting me, whether through your thoughts and well wishes or helping me fundraise the money needed to go on this trip. It has been so very much appreciated! I thank the Father everday that I have had this wonderful opportunity of learning from others, and showing just a little bit what it means to follow Him with all those that I have encountered so far. Your further "vertical thoughts" in this endeavour are greatly appreciated and needed as I know there will be many struggles to come in the next 4 weeks.
Grace and Peace,