Sunday, August 1, 2010
It isn't Africa, but of equal interest to me. In just two short weeks I will be moving to China for at least the next year of my life. I am officially an employed professor of English and the Harbin University of Commerce in Harbin, China. Harbin, China is located in Heilongjiang province in Northeastern China just below Russia, to the side of Mongolia and above North Korea. Yes, it is very cold.
I am going to China because I know it is what I am supposed to do. This is my first real opportunity to go somewhere, live, learn and build substantial relationships. Like I mentioned, it isn't Africa like I always thought it would be, but it is a place with need like any. Even beyond that, it is a place that needs to be desperately understood by more Westerners. I don't presume that I will accomplish 100% understanding of the Chinese culture, but even if I grasp 5%, I will be much better off than I currently stand. Another important aspect for me is that I will not be going alone, but with a group of my closest friends from Pepperdine that I graduated with. I believe, almost above all things, that an established community is essential in all of life's experiences. Whether you are with one other person or 20, community is necessary for strength. I once spent a month traveling around Southeast Asia by myself and by the time I was in Vietnam (final destination), I was talking to myself and starting a conversation with anyone that looked like they were friendly, even when we didn't speak the same language. One night as I lay in my bed reminiscing on all the adventures I had had, I began to cry as I realized that no one would ever know these stories and experiences except for me. Of course I can tell them to other people, but beside my word, which I'm good for, no one has any reason to believe me, or listen to me for that matter. This singular experience led me to conclude that memories that are not shared with another are as good as memories that never really existed and that is unfortunate because often times, memories propel us to move forward in life.
So, there are many thoughts I have about going to China and what it will be like and what will happen of which I will spare writing about here, but mainly I expect nothing except to be challenged and changed for the better. I imagine that I will have quite a lot to say in about three more weeks from this night. At that point, I will rejoice with my group, wander around the city of Harbin, prepare for classes, meet more people than an introvert like myself would normally care to, and then, I will write an update to let you in on some of that joy.
So why am I taking the blog name Johnny Young? This name has long been my travel alias. Why has this long been my travel alias? Well, there's a story behind this name that I intend to explain as it will help us move along my life path with much understanding. I can remember being seven years old and pretending to be an explorer who traveled the world and saved people at all cost. Along with me on every adventure was my youngest cousin, Seth. Seth and I took on an identical alias known to everyone as, Johnny. Johnny and Johnny traveled the world together via the bunk bed and in the midst of exploration always found ourselves in a messy situation, or being sent on a mission in order to help someone. Johnny and Johnny always traveled everywhere but had a special liking for Africa. Africa would always be our primary destination.
...12 years later this Johnny went to Africa in 2007 and again in 2008, always traveling under the same alias: Johnny. The last name was an addition made while on a four-month endeavor through Europe when I decided to carry a family name with me. Young is one of the oldest names in my family traced back on my mother's side.
Why is this blog called To the Tune of La and what is it all about? Well, here lies another story that I will try to keep as short as the telling of the last. In the spring of 2008 I had the opportunity to spend four months studying at Chiang Mai University in Thailand. While on a break, my best friend (Andy) and I traveled through Laos and it was there in a city called Luang Prabang that we met a lady named La. La was a homeless woman sleeping on a dirty sidewalk. Andy and I knew that we could not just walk by even though walking by such people becomes common practice to many travelers. It is not that we hadn't seen other needy folks around during our travels, on the contrary we had seen a great many, but this time was different. We had the story of Jesus meeting and offering friendship to Levi the tax collector resounding in our hearts. How simple that Jesus just walked up to broken people and said, "Follow me." What made people follow Him? It probably wasn't any strict dogma that He forced them to adhere to, or a step by step plan to be saved...no, I think it is clear that Jesus always helps, serves and offers friendship before anything else. It seems to make sense that people could be overcome with love rather than force. When we saw La just lying on the sidewalk I was broken inside realizing that I had walked right over the top of thousands of Las in my life because I've been too focused on something in the distance that honestly, I don't deserve. We took La to dinner and every foreigner/traveler in the restaurant stared our way as we sat with this filthy woman who we could barely communicate with. The servers at the restaurant offered her poor service and even asked if we really wanted all her orders to be on our tab. Two hours later, Andy, La and I were laughing and speaking to one another in a way I haven't often experienced since. We left her and she waved with a smile that has been seared into my mind for eternity. As Andy and I continued walking down the street we walked by a little charity box with a picture of a pitiful looking local on the front and the box had some inscription on it about helping the poor and homeless. The box was packed full of various currencies from around the world. The conclusion in our minds was all too clear. We all want to "help" but if we actually have to touch the hand or hold the body that is covered in such filth, heaven forbid we get dirt on our REI capilene or those cadet khakis from Gap. I would question what filth is exactly in this situation and who really reeks of it. Andy and I knew we would never travel the same again. And so it began.
So there you have it. I am not particularly a blog type of person or a skilled writer by any means, but at this point it may be the most efficient way to keep people who want to know where and what I am doing, in the loop. I will update this blog as long as I can foresee and my life will reflect what the One above needs of me and I am positive it will be done to the tune of my angel, La.