Unrealistic Expectations

When I went to France, Americans told me that the French were mean, they smelled bad, and that they hated Americans. When I went to Saipan, Americans told me that it was too hot, it was too isolated, and I’d be rejected as a non-islander. When I went to China, Americans told me that it was too polluted, the government would control my every move, and that they hated Americans.

In every one of these statements, there is some truth. Someone had a [bad] experience and they’ve just passed the story down like a game of telephone. The truth gets twisted and exaggerated the farther it goes. If all we see is the bad in a place, then we will never be happy anywhere we are or anywhere we go.

If all I remembered of France was the grumpy expressions on the metro and how it smelled like pee, I would never want to return. If all I remembered of Saipan was the typhoons and the heat, then I would never want to return. If all I remember of China is the pollution and the firewall, I will never come back here again.

If you go to a place and expect it to be bad, I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. If you go to a place with unrealistic expectations of greatness, then I guarantee that you will be disappointed. No place–no matter how it seems–is perfect. Similarly, no place–no matter how it seems–is completely horrible either.



polluted China
Just because Changsha doesn’t always look like the photo above, it doesn’t always look like this either…just more often than the one above!

Also, there’s a common theme among all the things that Americans tell me is that everyone hates Americans. I’m not really sure where this started, but it’s not necessarily true. People only hate Americans when you act like you’re the most important person in the world (a self righteous jerk) and then tell them you’re an American. They don’t hate you because you’re American, they just don’t like you because you’re being rude and disrespectful.

There are bad days and good days in China. Sometimes I look out and I see China as district 12 from the Hunger Games. Other days I feel as happy as I would working in New York City.  It’s like that no matter where you go; you just have to remember the good days along with the bad ones.


Let me be weak

A few days before I left, someone asked what lesson God had been teaching me lately. I answered easily, “letting go of control.” After all, that was all I had been talking about–how this wasn’t my plan, that I felt like I had no control over what was happening or what would happen in the future. However, the more I thought about it, there was so much more than that. Loss of control was the top of the iceberg, but below that was the process of dealing with my animosity against vulnerability, weakness, and trust.

When the typhoon hit and our living standards plummeted to that of a developing country, it forced me to put into action the advice that a good college friend told me before I left–don’t let technology keep you from what is right in front of you. It forced me to move beyond the walls of isolation that I had built up around myself.

During those last few weeks, I could no longer spend hours watching Doctor Who reruns, playing games on my phone, or checking Facebook and messaging those from home. Instead, I was forced to do what I should have been doing from the beginning–investing in relationships and spending time with those around me. In reaching out, I built friendships, found encouragement, and learned to be more open about my imperfections, struggles, and pain. I allowed myself to be vulnerable as I confronted conflict and spoke honestly about my feelings.

In these times when I am completely out of my comfort zone, God steps in with his courage, strength, and peace. And when I allow myself to be weak and vulnerable, to trust in him, I find freedom. Because he is greater than I, his plans are higher than my own. So that’s my prayer: that I step away from comfortability, take risks, be vulnerable, and move towards trusting God completely. Lord, let me be weak, because in my weakness, you are strongest.