Notice anything a bit unusual about the group of expats in this photo?
I’ll give you a hint – all of us were born before 1970. And no, we’re not retirees; we’re working while living abroad. Although it didn’t hit me that I was the youngest one in the group until I saw the pictures from our recent trip to Anyi Ancient Villages. You know why it didn't occured to me that I was the youngest? It's because these folks are so full of energy and curiosity, and still looking at the world with such a sense of wonder that I'm constantly forgeting all about their age – which of course, also comes with the added benefit of making me forget about my own! With the exception of Nicolas, a 61 year old Canadian (far right), this is the first time all of us have been to China and the first time any of us have lived abroad. And I tell you, when I look around at my current peers and recall the angst I felt about becoming a 1st time expat at the “late” age of 43, I feel rather silly. Because now, I can so deeply understand that universal wisdom which tells us that nearly all of our limitations are just illusions created by our own fears.
The trip to Anyi was incredible. The group of villages there is over a thousand years old and it’s just an amazing place. It’s a tourist attraction (I had to pay admission) but also an active, working village. Many of the structures that are still standing date back to the 600s A.D. and the inhabitants still live the way most of us did at the turn of the 20th century. Here's a few pics from that day...
|It was incredible walking down the same narrow stone corridors that people have walked for over a thousand years!|
|This old lady and child were handwashing clothes with bar soap in weather that was cold enough for me to need gloves and a scarf.|
|This tree is over 1000 years old!|
And to think I almost missed it because … well, let’s just say my digestive system is still getting used to life in China. But after popping some Imodium the night before, I woke up with a settled stomach and a mind set that was determined to go. And I have to admit that it was the eldest of our group, a sweet 66 year old lady from Dallas, that gave me the extra bit of motivation I needed. Because I thought, if she was raring to go on a day trip that included unlimited walking, sketchy bathrooms, and the unpredictability that always comes from foreign travel, surely I could make it! So that’s right, instead of being motivated to keep up (and keep fit) because I’m keeping company with “young” people, I’m actually getting motivation from wanting to keep up with the “old” folks!
And that’s just one of the ways that my perceptions about age has been kind of been turned on its head since I’ve been here. Another odd phenomenon is that the idea of being "old and wise" has simply become (at least within the group of expats living/working at my University) equated with how long a person has lived in China. So that the couple who is in their 20’s, Matt and Jenn, who have lived here for a year (which is a year longer than any of us) have become the dispensers of advice and information in the way that elders usually are. This 20 something year old couple - they are the ones that teach us, the ones who’ve already experienced what we’re now experiencing, and in so many ways, function as the "parents" of our little expat tribe. Those of us in our 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s have no problem deferring to their wisdom on any number of issues related to being an expat here in China. The fact that they are only in their 20’s is virtually meaningless.
Now, in some ways it has been a bit disorienting to have my mental constructs and perceptions about age become so completely turned upside down. Though I have to admit that mostly, it has also become downright liberating!
http://www.loveniais.com/ - Living and Learning Life One Risk at a Time