Saturday, June 6, 2009

Shanghai-Day One (continued)

Some young Chinese were scheduled to meet us in the lounge, so we freshened up, entered the elevator, and descended to the ground floor. Our three guests arrived at staggered intervals. Each one had similar physical characteristics -- black hair, dark brown eyes, and the tight, Asian eye lids. Introductions and small talk paved the way for the young ladies to find the ease and confidence to take the conversation deeper. Our new friends began to share their dreams and aspirations. It was then, as matters of the heart were shared, that each one's distinct uniqueness--and dogged determination to live a life of significance--became evident. It is difficult for us (at least me) to appreciate the intense commitment it takes for a young Chinese woman to find her heart and pursue her passion -- high hurdles and daunting challenges resist every attempt. But the Big Country is changing -- women by the millions are finding a seam in their country's cultural fabric. Like the beautiful hand-stitched and woven silk that has given China world renown, women are bringing shimmer, color, and beauty that are transforming the fabric and culture of one of the world's oldest civilizations.

Listening to them manipulate and convert their Chinese thoughts into English words was at times tedious for them -- but nothing less than impressive (and sometimes amusing) to their hearers. Most of them had been speaking our language for a very short time, yet had an extensive vocabulary and command of our native tongue. We listened with great attentiveness and fascination.

Outside, the sun settled and the horizon transitioned from daylight—to dusk—to darkness. The ceiling-to-floor glass wall between us and the out-of-doors slowly became a mirror. Translucent images began to appear in the window -- ours. Soon, identical replicas of each of us reflected and mimicked our every move and gesture. It was then that a personal perspective began to emerge that I tried to maintain for the entire adventure in the Big Country. I will attempt to explain it . . .

As we chatted in the lounge, because of the reflection in the window, I could see myself contributing to the dialogue -- fully engaged and animated. But also, because of the effect of the window becoming a mirror, I could stand apart from myself. Observing and listening to my own words as an outsider, eavesdropper. Interestingly, I tried to give an interpretation to my every word and gesture as an observer, rather than contributor.

Hmmm.

My life is an ongoing conversation, and I am slowly learning that it takes on an entirely different perspective when I learn to process it both ways -- as an engaged contributor and as a silent, outside observer.

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