Student News

China #14: The Power of Optimism

July 1, 2014

Ballard Brown ’16 recounts the group’s first day in Lijiang, where they met with a highly respected doctor.  Also in this post is a meditation by Will Hodges ’15, who reflects back on last week’s Beijing home stay experience: 

Ballard: Today we woke up in Lijiang and saw it in the light for the first time. We knew a little bit about the local Naxi culture before coming, but today we experienced it. We went to a Naxi village and wandered for a short time. There we met a world-renowned doctor. He was 92 years old, and I think that it is safe to speak for the group in saying that he was one of the more impressive people we have met. He learned English from the U.S. military during WWII. He said that without the U.S.,  he would likely have died at the hands of the Japanese. After the war, he was poor, and when he was ill he had to learn to cure himself. He then became a well known doctor in the community and the world.

Photo Credit: Miriam Singer

Dr. Ho
Photo Credit: Miriam Singer

 

I think that this man and his philosophy have drastically changed my personal opinions (and perhaps others’ opinions) on the quality and health of our lives.  The doctor’s philosophy was one of health via a lack of smoking and drinking and following simple diets. More than that he spoke about the key to good health being optimism. He said that no matter what happens, always stay optimistic and never be negative about your situation, or else your health will decline with your outlook.

***

Will: The trip from school to my host family’s apartment on the first day was uncomfortable, to say the least. I typically don’t mind the silences some people deem awkward, but this time I felt obligated to engage and be recieved in a positive manner. I used a combination of Chinese and English to learn more about my new family. Soon, I learned just how exhausting this is. I found myself often putting on a fake smile of excitement in order to reassure my family I was content, when in fact my soul was full of tumult and confusion. There were times when I felt guilty. Meal after meal, my family took me to some of the city’s more expensive restaurants, treating me to some of China’s delicacies. I could tell that this was not the sort of fare the family would typically spring for and that it was way out of their price range, if you will. All and all, they were insistant on making my stay as enjoyable as posssible. In many ways, they were successful.

However, it wasn’t the material things that brought smiles to my face. It was the conversations and good times I shared with them. Staying with and being a part of a Chinese family for close to a week helped open my eyes and broaden my cultural understanding. From my host brother, I learned a lot about schooling in China and the lifestyle of its youth. From my host mother, I was taught in the art of Chinese cooking. And finally, with my host father, we had many profound discussions about the political and social differences between the United States and China. Because he had long been a diplomat stationed in America, he had many fascinating insights into Sino-American public policy. On the last night, we sat late into the night and conversed about China’s future while watching World Cup highlights. This is probably my fondest memory of the entire host-family experience.