Sunday, June 19, 2011

The University

A normal morning in cafe.
The place where we spent the majority of our time working was at the universities.  Our team of nine was split into three groups of three, and each smaller group worked at the same university every day.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we were there from about 7:30am to 3:30pm, and on Tuesday and Thursday we were there from 2:30 to 7:00pm.  We spent a lot of every day with a group of students who are believers.  We'd usually meet them in one of the cafes on campus and talk about ministry, our walks with the Lord, and overall just try to be an encouragement to them.  When we were weren't with them, we were out on the campus meeting students.  We'd try to start conversations that could lead to deeper ones, and would invite them to a Christmas party we were having.  I know this is all very vague, but for security reasons it has to be.  Since I can't share more about that aspect of our time at the universities, I'll at least share a little more about the cultural side of it.  

The "mess hall" where we ate with the students.
It didn't take long to figure out that Chinese college students are similar to American college students in many ways.  They enjoyed hanging out with their friends, watching films (as they always referred to them), listening to music, and surfing the internet.  Girls blushed and got giddy when they talked about guys that they liked, and the guys would show off in front of groups of cute girls.  But as similar as they are in some ways, they are drastically different in others.  Even though they enjoy doing the same kinds of things as American college students, they do them far, far less.  They spend the majority of their time dedicated to school.  When I asked them what they do for fun or in their spare time I often got blank stares.  Having hours each day to do whatever they wanted was a foreign concept, because for most, if they weren't actually in class, they were studying.  We also quickly discovered that a majority of students are majoring in something that they don't want to be; it was their parents choice.  From the way I understand it, parents pay for all of the schooling, and then once the children have a job they send so much money back to their parents each month.  Since the parents are paying for school, they have a big say in what the child will study, and since they want to be well taken care of they choose a field that makes a lot of money.  So often our conversations would go something like this...

Me: So, what are you studying?
Student: Hydro Electric Energy (or something else that I don't even know what it means).
Me: Whoa, that's impressive!  Do you enjoy it?
Student: No
Me: No?  So why are you studying it?
Student: It is what my parents choose for me.  

After hearing this over and over again it made me so thankful that my parents let me choose the school I wanted to attend, what major I wanted to study, and what job I eventually took.  If my parents made me study Hydro Electric Energy I'd still be trying to pass Chemistry I!

And this is completely unrelated to the last topic, but it's one of the most interesting things I experienced on campus, and that is "ice-cream."  We were in the cafe one day and the students said they wanted to order us ice-cream.  "Oh good," I thought, "I love ice-cream!"And then they brought it to the table.  Definitely not anything close to what I considered ice-cream.  It was shaved ice, covered in cold beans, yes beans, and then topped with jam.  I loved about 95% of everything I ate in China, except the ice-cream.  

Hot tea and ice-cream...

 One place where we could always find students hanging out was at the soccer fields.  They still had P.E. classes, and in the afternoons different classes would be playing each other.  And for some reason, I just really like this picture.  I think it's the contrast between the afternoon soccer game at a university, with high rise apartments being built in the background.  And me, Wesley, and Megan are the middle set of shadows in the bottom. 

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