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The Proverbs of Confucius

“Recognize yourself in he and she
who are not like you and me.”
–Carlos Fuentes Macias

Three summers ago, I traveled to China for seventeen days with an organization called People to People, which was comprised of thirty student ambassadors from Florida and Georgia. Little did I know how a small Chinese village could teach me the quintessence of diversity.

Three of my fellow delegates and I arrived at the Hongyan village in Beijing on the ninth day of my travel. My home stay “mother,” Maggie, greeted me at the bus stop with a kind “hello” in her best attempt at English. She hugged me tightly while she cradled her eight-month old grandson in her left arm. We walked through the village to her home, passing quaint homes adorned with red and gold, and small shops displaying “Welcome Student Ambassadors” on large, white banners. Nearly as soon as we entered the door, Maggie eagerly presented each of us a welcoming gift, a small handmade necklace. She prepared a meal for us and while we ate, she took out her album and explained in fragments of English that she has a daughter who bore her first child, a son who does not live at home because he is married and has his own family, and a husband whom she loves dearly and has been married to for over twenty years.

That night we strolled to the town square and were formally welcomed to the village. The villagers greeted us with traditional dances and songs. Curious young children greeted me by touching my curly hair and rubbing my deep brown skin, wondering if my color would rub off on them. A little girl walked up to me and asked, “I speak English well. What is your name?” She glanced down at the Chinese name card that hung from my neck and said, “Danielle. That’s a pretty name!” From my conversation with this young girl and many other villagers, I learned more of the Chinese culture. The challenge of a language barrier forced us to communicate only what was most important and the fundamental aspects of their culture became evident: high regard for the proverbs of Confucius, which teach that one should respect elders, the belief that education is paramount, the conviction that one should adhere to the Golden Rule, and the tenet of family as the foremost institution.

Looking back on my trip to China, I found their values and customs echoed many similarities to my own culture. My Caribbean culture has taught me the importance of family togetherness, respect for elders, academic excellence, and the Golden Rule. These similarities helped me to realize that we are all more similar than different, helping me to no longer see people and cultures as divergent, but similar in more ways than none. I no longer saw them as peculiar in action and thought, but as similar to me and to a culture from which I derive my most cherished traditions and values.



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