I watched the clouds blow by the propeller of the plane, they reminded of cotton in a cotton gin. Now, to be honest, I have never seen cotton in a cotton gin but if it does not look this way then it should. I thought about my students and wondered what they were doing. It was morning time in China and that meant they were in class and probably trying to steal a few more minutes of sleep when the teacher would turn his back to write on the board.
I realized I missed them. The wisdom they possessed was far beyond their years. They were dealing with problems, and dreams, and ambitions, that I never fathomed when I was in university. You could tell they were trying to figure out how to be more in touch with the west while maintaining and strengthening their Chinese identity. Unlike their American counterparts across the ocean, they have enthusiastically started thinking not only what was is best for their future, but also for the future of their family and nation. They do this in between the hours in the library, the part time jobs, the jokes and the games with friends. I often wondered if they had extra hours during the day that I was not told about in my college days.
I watched other clouds. Some of them lazily plodded along, looking as if they would stop and sleep under the first tree they find. Others tumbled like some sort of horizontal avalanche. These clouds looked as if they were ready to pounce and eat the lazier clouds. Both sets of clouds seemed very content with wherever their destiny of was taking them. The answer was, literally, blowing in the wind.
I always appreciated how my students always rushed to do good things. I had to be careful about mentioning that I was confused about something or did not know where something was because within moments several students would volunteer to help. When a massive earthquake struck Yushu, mny of the students were distraught because they could not give as much as they wanted to. Several gave money earmarked for a nice weekend with friends or several nice meals to those who needed it much more. They give without regret , they gave without a promise of better things in the future, they gave because China is one big family, and you always help family.
The sun started to set behind the clouds. The sky was painted in hues of purple, orange , and red that blended and swirled in ways Picasso and Rembrandt could never dream of . I enjoyed the masterpiece until the master painter put the dark curtain over it. The show was over and I slowly drifted ,one final time, to China.
As I drifted I heard their laughter. I saw their excitement as they mastered a skill that, one week earlier, they though they never would. I saw the smiles of the young men and women I had taught for the past year. I wanted to ask them if they had learned as much from me as I learned from them, but they were all running smiling and carrying on as always. Another lesson awaited them and they were eager to learn it. I smiled. Content, I drifted to another place.
"The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home" -Confucius