Nanchang Chronicles—Day 4

post date: February 22, 2008
So what’s it like in Nanchang? A friend who has been here for a while said that Nanchang isn’t like Beijing or Shanghai. Nanchang is the "real China." It’s easy to tell the difference. Beijing and Shanghai are both enormous cities, with populations that rank among the largest in the world. In Beijing you have thousands of years of Chinese history on display, you can walk on the Great Wall, you can spend time (and lots of money) in the bustling, booming downtown area, you can visit Tienanmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, and you can tour the National Museum. The eyes of the world will be on Beijing when it hosts the Summer Olympics in August. And because it is the seat of government, you can see people from around the world. Shanghai is very Westernized. Everyone agrees on that. A Chinese student said that it’s easier to find good Chinese food in Nanchang than in Shanghai because Shanghai is so international and cosmopolitan.
So you get used to heads turning and children pointing and people laughing as you pass by. But it is a friendly laughter, not derisive or hostile. Every single encounter we’ve had has been pleasant. When we talk to the people of Nanchang, they always want to know, "How do you like China?" "We love it," we reply. And then they smile. They are happy we are here and are eager to try out their English. Most of them know a few words–"Hello" and "How are you?" and "Thank you" and "Goodbye."
The American teachers say that the students are always ready to hang out. Like students everywhere, some of them enjoy studying, some don’t, some come to class prepared, others do as little as possible. As the students have trickled back in from their holiday break, many of them have greeted Josh and Leah warmly.
Besides teaching English, what do the teachers do? They get to know the students, they answer their questions, they develop relationships, and they talk about whatever the students want to talk about. Eventually deeper issues of life come up. Sometimes the students want to know more. At Christmas and Easter the teachers are free to explain the story to their students because that is regarded as "Western culture." Because the teachers are here to teach, they walk a fine line, always trying to be "wise as serpents and harmless as dove," a very Chinese way of thinking, by the way. You begin by making friends with students and then listening for the moment when you "give a reason for the hope that is within you." There are "like-minded" students here, and others who are on the way. There are two Three-Self churches in Nanchang and other fellowships in various places. The Father has not left himself without a witness in this part of the world.

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