Steam filled my nostrils as I leaned over my bowl of snake and turtle soup. I wasn't thinking about the slightly fishy taste of the dark turtle meat. My eyes were focused ahead on the small television set, as a news reporter gave an update of the clean-up process in Sichuan. A large earthquake had hit. I knew the location. Six months before, I had spent time hiking and playing basketball with the locals of that same town. The children I had seen then were crowding the sidelines and cheering for the "American team." The atmosphere was much different now.
Nobody expected the Sichuan earthquake. Life has tragedies, inconveniences, and detours. Although often hard to bear, that's part of what makes life interesting. We grieve, we cope, and we grow. I guess we shouldn't expect our expectations to always hold true. I realized that as I sat in the passenger seat of an 18-wheeler carrying hundreds of pounds of frozen TV dinners to Victorville, California. I should've been on a much anticipated flight to Hong Kong. My road took an unexpected detour, and I found myself on one of life's "scenic routes." I just enjoyed the ride and knew I'd eventually get to my destination--China.
I'm sitting on a bench in downtown Dongguan, China, as I write this. For some reason, a white guy sitting on a bench with a pad of paper and a pen is about the most interesting thing in the world. I don't think I'd get more stares if I was casually sitting here in the nude...well, maybe. But all in all, I'm loving it here. I came alone, neither knowing the way nor anyone along the way. What I did know was my destination and my capabilities (oh, and enough Chinese). In the little over two weeks that I've been here I've become part of a family, made many friends, helped collect donations for a volunteer organization, joined a basketball team, worsipped with local Christians, traveled to several other cities, and improved my Chinese, or so they tell me.
Tomorrow, I leave for four days to an island called Hainan. It's farther south in latitude than Hanoi, Vietnam, and is considered the Hawaii of China. The island is huge, about the size of Taiwan, and it attracts tourists from all over the world. I have no idea what lies ahead of me, but I'll be sure to keep a pad of paper and a pen close by in case I stop to take a break on a bench by the beach.