“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” – Aristotle
This summer was one of the most challenging, impacting, and memorable summers I had ever endured. All the years of band camp in the summer sun couldn’t have prepared me for the constantly changing weather of that in Guizhou, China. All the years of preparation to be an independent individual couldn’t compare to living as a role model for the betterment of more than two hundred other lives. And yet, it is now over, and I look back with fondness and favor in my eyes, a deep swell of longing to return squeezing my heart just slightly but constantly.
My battleground was at Pu-Weng Middle School. Despite the nicer lodgings, what truly mortified me and terrified me was the bathroom. Having lived in America all my life, only venturing out to visit relatives, I had grown spoiled to the porcelain throne I had taken for granted for so long. Well, after this trip, I will never do that again. For, compared to the tiled trenches which led to the pit of wastes that was visible at ANY given angle, with the fumes wafting, hovering, and spreading, my wastes were spoiled as well. Truly, completely, spoiled. But as I would find myself too scared to move, a comforting hand of a passing by companion would break me from my reverie, and pull me out, into the open fresh air.
Not only that, but there was no running water within the school. That meant we had to bathe in the river that ran alongside the school. So, in the late hours of the night, when it was dark, other teachers and I would venture down the slippery path and, cloaked in darkness, we would waddle into the cold waters, wash, and quickly remove ourselves, lest we wish to catch a cold. And as much fun as it was to play in the water, the fact that some only had this method of cleaning themselves truly touched me. But gentle and patient smiles always returned me to the task at hand.
“Friendship is the golden thread that ties the heart of all the world.” – John Evelyn
Yes, the aforementioned truly shocked and moved me to opening my heart to those around me, but what helped the most were the big eyes and smiles brought about whenever my team of teachers were around. Truly, the treasures of the world can’t ever be bought in stores, nor dug up from deep within the earth, for the greatest treasures are the friendships shared between those with love in their hearts. And in comparison to a life of luxury in America, the life of a teacher of bright faces, curious minds, and great friends far outweighs all else.
This summer would have been, indeed, unbearable, had it not been for the friendships forged in this new environment. It has truly been a blessing getting to know all the teachers and students that were at Pu-Weng Middle School, and many of them unforgettable in my heart. I have become much stronger and more willing to put myself out there, in hopes of discovering new friendships and creating new bonds with those who are so like and unlike me. In the words of Lois L. Kaufman, “Plant a seed of friendship; reap a bouquet of happiness.”
Thank you, Thanksgiving Action for changing my life.