The adventure of traveling is certainly more fun to relate in hindsight than experiencing it. Perhaps you’ve had this notion if you read travel literature, or have traveled a lot yourself. The problem, (perhaps it is only a problem for me?) is that traveling in China is generally not pleasant and it is hard to relax. And relax is what I sorely needed to do.
On one side, it is rather adventurous to be able to get from place to place, by train, bus, or whatever. But the waiting and the bargaining, the crowds, the uncertainty, and the eventual rip-off of the stranger (me!) wears on you. You want to have it your way; but fighting for it, and sometimes not getting it, is part of the adventure, which adds to the story of course. But in the midst, it is easy to complain, even though I hate to complain. But then I think again: I can get away with certain things here that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to back in the States – hitchhiking, for example.
This kind of adventure on a daily basis can get old, and leads deeper to the core of the tension of what it is like to live in China, even when not traveling. A lot of life here, like this trip, involves haggling. It is easy to get swept in argument and confrontation because you see it all around. It is a society where everything is bargained (sometimes argued) for – it is expected and it is part of the deal. Someone with my personality can easily get carried away, and I do at times. It is hard for me to back down, and will stew about the injustice of everything for longer than I care to admit. I know there is a point when “participating with the culture” crosses the line at which point it becomes counter to the message that I really want to send with my life. I also know that I probably cross that line often.
Lately I have been striving To be fully present wherever I am, whatever is going on. Being in the moment is not to be present in the circumstances. In all the waiting, the frustration of not-so-smooth transportation, and just wanting to get there, I was aware of being present only in my frustrations and disappointments and not getting past them. I wanted to get past it. I just wanted to relax and have a good time. I realized that I needed to be intentional in transcending the present circumstances, and being present in God’s presence, in his peace, in his provision. Engendering gratitude and grace in my attitude helps with that. Easy to do while poking embers in the campfire, not so easy when it starts to rain on your campfire.
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;…” 2 Cor 2:14-15 (NRSV)