China was one of the hardest months of my journey on the World Race. We left three months in Africa for December in China. We spent several days in Hong Kong while our visas cleared, then crossed the border into china via bus and train. When we arrived in China all of our credit cards, including those with our team money, were blocked. All fifty of us slept outside a train station, laying on top of our bags, praying for a miracle.
We finally pooled together enough cash to get our tickets and headed out.
My team and several others spent 30 hours on a train headed north to Lanzhou, China, where we spent our month living in a hotel room above a restaurant (that we thought was a brothel for a little while) and visiting Lanzhou University. We spent some time in the library at the school, which was awesome, and made several new friends. We visited two friends at their apartment and learned to make dumplings, or pot stickers, while watching episodes of Friends! It was cold and snowed the majority of the time we were there so most days I wore leggings, jeans, and sweatpants all at once to keep warm. We were ill prepared for the cold, for sure. There were so many moments that made this month unique and memorable: the potato lady at the local market (who fed us many nights), the barbie-pink bathroom sink, Gangnam Style blaring from a downstairs speaker most mornings, watching the extended versions of LOTR and falling in love with Downton Abbey, tons of beef noodle soup, and the one restaurant we found with the great green tea and incredible cabbage. It’s the little things! Our team gathered together each night, away from our Netflix and Ramen, to study the Word. For some ungodly reason we chose to read through Ecclesiastes. Living in the cold north of China reading that everything in life is vain… well, I’ll let you imagine how encouraged we were.
We spent Christmas in town with several other teams who were working in the area. I was sick with a ridiculous cold so I ate ramen and watched Full House reruns alone.
Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve we took a train ride from Lanzhou to Beijing, another 23 hours. I couldn’t sleep due to the smoking and upright seats, so I journaled deliriously until we got to Beijing. We were exhausted and I thought I’d never make it to our hostel. When we finally made it I collapsed in the bed and slept for an entire day. Thankfully one of my squadmates had some Nyquil, which helped immensely.
Two of my greatest memories from that time in China happened in that Beijing hostel. After our group worship one night, my friend Amy and I were talking about Isaiah 43, I have called you by name, and what that meant. “What does God call you?” she asked, which began this introspective journey into my identity, which later led to a tattoo. The second memory that sticks out involves being sick. I didn’t leave the hostel for several days because I was exhausted and sick, so I sat in the little cafe area reading Jeremiah. I was so intrigued by the kings of Israel and how their timelines worked that I mapped them out in my journal from beginning to exile. I learned so much about the Old Testament during that time!