By Zhe Ma

Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you…

It’s been more than a week since I’ve left Zhuhai, and I’ve been meaning to write a new blog post. I first decided on the title, but when it came time to put finger to keyboard (?) I was lost. My thoughts about the last two months seemed to recede into a dark place in my mind and it refused to let go of its safety and comfort.

So, I was browsing Hypem today and stumbled upon a song by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros called Home. When I started listening to the song, I started crying. That song led me to write this blog post. Just hit play, it’ll go great with the post, trust me.

I guess there are a lot of emotions that have come out of this experience. I think the best way for me to sum it up would be to say that ol’ Richard Broadhead was right. This experience, Duke Engage, is not really about you saving the community that you are serving in, but it is about changing yourself, your views, and your way of thinking.

I am Chinese, so I always got a head start on understanding Western-Eastern differences. Yet, on this trip it became ridiculously clear to me how lucky I was to be able to experience both sides. Being in America all this time, I’ve discovered without fail that certain preconceptions of Eastern culture are just plain wrong. Interestingly, but in the end expected, Easterners also have wrong and sometimes poor preconceptions of Western culture. It really saddens me that we can live in the Golden Age of information and still sometimes be so poorly educated about other individuals of our own species.

Yet, I feel that the newer generation will be different. I certainly hope I made a good impression on the kids. I hope that as a group, we were able to show them what kind of people we were and what we stood for. I sincerely hope that their ideas about education, especially learning English, have changed. That education is not all about memorizing content, but it is about learning skills for you to use in the future so when the opportunity arises, you will be able to succeed. They certainly have rubbed off on me too! Nowadays, I’m always using QQ to chat it up and I have started speaking Chinese to my parents again, first time since I was six. Below is a picture of some of my favorite people. I can’t wait to see these guys again because I know they will all be very successful in the future.

 Photo Cred: Rebecca Pham

So, to the song business…

I got emotional because I finally realized why Zhuhai had such an impact on me. By the end of two months, I got used to the same bed, the same office, and the same people that I hung out with every day. In my mind, Zhuhai was Home. I distinctly remember the night our group was coming back from Hong Kong. As I was walking Home alone in the dark, I had stopped. At that moment, I had the nagging feeling of unrest like I had been traveling for a long time and that I really, really wanted to be Home. No, not the one in Parkland, FL or Durham, NC, but the one in Zhuhai. When I got Home, I dropped my bags and a sense of relief washed over me.

Last week I came home and left Home at the same time. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the people and places from this trip: Rebecca, Cedric, Antares, Abby, Jiwon, Scott, De’Shaun, Wenjia, Jeremy, Shariza, Jonathan, Principal Lee, KGB, Livia, Assistant Principal Tina, Jimmy with glasses, Smiling Jimmy, Oscar (so cute!), PE Teachers, Crissy, Crissy’s friends, our third floor office, the dance room, the patio area across from the dance room, Lu Lu, Baby, Leo, Ronny, Kingston, Jacky, Tina, all the Hip Hop Girls and Boys, my Baseball boys, my Photography boys, Mary and Lanche (as a couple), Eric (Lanche’s friend), Melody, Sally, Myrtle, John, Vincent, Carmen, Lebron, Panda, Kong Jia Ming, Rousala, Zorro, all my amazing students, all the No. 9 students that I got to interact with every day, all the Jinan students (yes even Joyce), Ben, Gongbei, Shui Wan Jie, government sponsored KTV, The Music Box, Hong Kong (maybe next summer!?), Macau, Beijing, Guangzhou, Xi’an, my wonderful host family, all the other incredible host families, and last but not least Eric P. Zhou and Hsiao-Mei Ku for making every minute of the last two months just unbelievable. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

This will be the last blog post that I write and I think it has been the most meaningful one to me. If someone made a montage of my life, Zhuhai would make the top 3. I plan to continue being active in service and I know I will make it back to the Zhuhai area someday.

Until then, I’m stuck somewhere in limbo thinking about that place I once called Home.