Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: ROAD TRIP (vacation) (07/02/15)
TITLE: The Glory of the Journey
By Jenny Fulton
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The idea began as one of those “wouldn’t it be fun” ideas that never actually materializes into reality. It wasn’t until a fellow teacher also voiced the idea that I decided to bring this thought to life – a four stop tour of Shangri-la, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Lijiang, and Dali.
Taking the lead on a trip like this was somewhat beyond my natural inclination and realm of experience. I’d much rather tag along, letting someone else make the decisions and do the talking. The more I contemplated the possibility of this trip, however, the more I really wanted to make it happen.
Two other teachers decided to join me. They are both new to the school and have only been studying Mandarin for about a month. Since I am now in my third year of studying Mandarin, this meant that not only would I be in charge of making the bulk of the decisions, but I would also be doing most of the talking – in Mandarin. I started praying.
The day finally arrived. Meredith, Lisa and I fumbled our way through a crowded Chinese bus station where we boarded a sleeper bus which would take us to Shangri-la – 12 hours away. This bus was the beginning of the new experiences. It had three rows of bunk beds which were connected in such a way that the hollowed-out raised headrest for one person served as the foot placement for the person behind.
After a fitful night’s rest, I awoke with the dawn to the breathtaking sight of the mountainous Chinese countryside rolling by outside my window. I was tired and uncomfortable, but the beautiful view made it worthwhile.
We arrived in Shangri-la where we then proceeded to haul two large suitcases down cobblestone streets to our destination: an old-style Chinese home which had been converted into a hostel. The next day, we rented bicycles and rode, for several hours, to Na Pa Lake. This was apparently a popular spot for yaks to graze and they were everywhere – beside the road, on the road... I couldn’t help remembering my childhood fear of cows as I road my bike within inches of the yaks and their long, pointed horns.
The next morning, after some challenging communication in both English and Mandarin, we bought bus tickets for Tiger Leaping Gorge. This bus took us to the entrance where we hopped on a van which would take us to our hostel, about half way into the gorge. I have never had such a breathtaking “we-are-about-to-slide-off-this-cliff” drive in my life. We arrived, alive and breathing, at Sean’s Guesthouse.
I stepped shakily out of the van and instantly felt as though I’d entered into another world. The beauty of the place wrapped me up, filling me with awe and freedom. The “me” who was so careful and quiet in the real world slipped away. In its place was a woman filled with expressive joy. I laughed. I raised my hands and spun around, not caring who was watching or what they might think. Throughout that day and the next, I spoke with strangers I would never have dared to approach before. For perhaps the first time, I allowed the fullness of the joy I felt to shine out...
My journal sits open beside me as I peacefully sip my coffee and contemplate all the places I've been. It is nap time now and my beautiful child is asleep in her crib. My days as a single woman skipping here and there across the globe are over, but what excited me about road trips has never changed. Looking back, I can see that I was excited by the opportunity the trip would give me to behold beauty, to meet and interact with people, to learn new things, and to broaden the scope of my own experience.
As a wife and mother, my life is significantly more stationary than it has ever been, and yet, spiritually, I’m moving as much as ever. Every day, I get to bask in the beauty of my daughter and in the life God has given me. Every day, I grow closer in relationship with my husband and with the community around us. Every day, God reveals himself and teaches me in ways I never had time to contemplate in my years of constant motion. Every day, God is broadening my knowledge and experience.
What once only took place on road trips has become an everyday reality.
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