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Spring Break in China This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Spring break is a time to party for most teens. Instead, I went to China on a mission trip with my school. We spent the first week and a half at our sister school, the Shanghai Foreign Language School. The last three days in China were spent with my host family. The first week drastically changed my view of the Chinese culture, but I did not anticipate that these final days of the trip would affect me the most.
Walking down the limestone steps of a restaurant, I noticed a Chinese couple waving. The hints of chicken covered in peanut and soy with lemon were still vividly in my mouth. My host brother, Yun Xiang, said, “These are my parents. They are very excited to meet you.” I saw a man and a small woman with big, dark eyes that gave off warmth, both smiling at their guest.
I noticed a small black car. I knew it was made here, but when I got in, all my preconceptions about Chinese manufacturing disappeared. The car was awesome - leather seats, nice stereo (my host father loves Fergie), and very spacious. My host mother turned and said, “#$%#@$%&*#$@$.” My brother turned to me and translated, “Put your seat belt on.”
As I left the restaurant in a Chinese car, my friends from school were disappearing fast. I stared out the window at all the lights and the countless apartment complexes that dotted the skyline. Honking horns are the symphony of Shanghai. The thick smog coming in through the open windows filled my nostrils. All the while, I heard the incomprehensible conversation between my host family. My host parents could not speak English, but fortunately my host brother was an excellent English student.
We finally slowed and turned into a gated apartment complex. With foreign faces staring at me, I felt as though I did not belong. We went up what seemed like endless flights of stairs. Finally, I stepped into my home for the next few days.
Their home was small and modest, and showed me that one doesn’t really need a big home with lots of furnishings, a must-have for many in the United States. The apartment next door belonged to the father’s parents. I was surprised that they lived so close. Since they did not have room for me in their apartment, I slept in the grandparents’ house. Even though the city was still bustling, I was ready for sleep.
It was my first night with my family, and I adjusted easily to their humble home. As dinner was served, my senses were directed to wonderful smells. Hints of ginger and seafood filled the air and suddenly a whole cooked fish emerged from the kitchen (with its tail and head). I had never been presented with an entire fish. I told my host brother, “In America, the fish is usually processed and even when it’s not, we cut off the head and tail.” He translated for his parents. His mom responded, “In China, we have an idea of start to finish.”
From that moment on, the principle of start to finish has helped me with every task I have faced. I am driven to accomplish what is set before me. I start and finish my day. I set a schedule to get everything finished. This principle has stayed with me ever since. And I still remember the aroma of ginger filling the air and seeing the whole fish.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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Valerie said...
Jul. 1, 2011 at 1:21 pm
That's so cool!!!!!!!!!!! I wish I could go to China!!!!!!!
 
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