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New Experiences

Dear Family and Friends,

I am writing to you from my host family’s home, a modest and well kept apartment in the heart of Kunming. The last several days have been amazing – riddled with new experiences. For example, last Saturday I was given a window into my host grandmother’s life. In the morning, I accompanied her to a bustling market, located under a nearby bridge. We walked as she explained to me, in rapid Mandarin, what each foreign fruit was. Although I did not pick up all the details, I got the general gist of each food description. We often stopped to talk to her many friends, a selection of fruit/vegetable vendors. These friends would comment on the presence of her strange friend (me), and she would proceed to brag about my flawless use of chopsticks or my Mandarin proficiency (both of which are sub-par at best).

After this excursion, we took the bus to her friend’s tea shop. There, we drank the best black tea I have ever had in my life and chatted with her friend. After buying enough tea to fuel an army, we returned home. Being able to experience this simple yet beautiful routine was very impactful, highlighting the elegant charm of a small group of good friends. I chose to recount this story because I feel that it is representative of my time here thus far, filled with previously foreign ideas/routines/cultures that have helped me grow in various ways. Another fascinating aspect of the trip has been my independent study into Chinese business. Just yesterday, this study led me to a state of introspection – evaluating my lifelong goals/drives. I have Tindy to thank for this amazing experience, who has generously tapped into her business connections to allow me to meet people from all walks of life. I look forward to not only continuing this study, but to all the new experiences that still lie ahead.


Jake Birdwell