Chi Ku.

This week's class is on Happiness.

Chrissie and me

So we read a story in the textbook about different ways to respond to adversity.  The question it posed was, "Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"  Maybe you've heard this illustration before; when faced with adversity (boiling water), the carrot gets mushy and falls apart, the egg gets hard the whole way through, but the coffee beans transform into something better.

The answer seemed obvious to me.  Everyone wants to be coffee, right?

Not according to my students.

No one wanted to be a carrot.  A few wanted to be coffee beans.

But an overwhelming number of them wanted to be like the egg.

Because in China, here's how you respond to hardship: you endure.  You bear it.  The idealized characteristic in responding to suffering and adversity and brutal conditions of any type is summed up in a Chinese idiom: 吃苦 Chi ku.  Eat bitterness.

At a deep cultural level, there is no real hope for redemption of suffering.  The best thing that you can do is choke down more bitterness to try to spare other from having to eat it.

Being here is hard some days, when the sky is nearly always grey and the reality of having only one teammate on campus and that most of the people I love are on the other side of the world (and even the ones in China are hard to get to, because Sichuan is remote....)

Chrissie, Beatrice, Miya, and Debbie.
But some days, it's obvious that this is the perfect place for me to be.  Because I have solid hope that evil will, in fact, be overcome by good, that everything can be worked together for good.  And I want my students to have that, too.

(Also, some days three years sounds like a mighty long time to be here.  But some days it sounds just right, like tonight when these girls asked if I'd come back next year, and I told them yes, I plan to be at this school until they graduate -- since they're sophomores -- and they freaked out with joy.)


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