If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you that it’s been a thrilling week teaching in the Freshman Scholars Institute program at Princeton, talking with my new students (about Plato, Freire, Hitchcock, and Du Bois), and also hearing some of their stories and their passions. When I sat with them on Sunday evening during dinner, I noticed that while they were saddened by the violence in their country, they were not defeated by it–their hope for the future is inspiring.
I’d tell you how challenging I think it may be for me to keep a handle on my writing projects and professional goals with this busy summer semester course. A month ago at the Frederick Buechner Writer’s Workshop Institute at Princeton Theological Seminary, several workshop presenters talked about the efficacy of collaborative writing partnerships. In one pair, two academics set quarterly writing goals and checked in with each other on writing schedules once a week, also exchanging work, and talking about writing over a weekly call. I’m striving to set and keep writing goals myself and considering such a partnership as one possibility.
How do you keep your writing goals? What are your best tips? Would love to hear from you!
Finally, I’d talk to you about all the excitement and anticipation my family and I have about moving into a new house in the coming weeks. As you know, we’ve been living in other people’s apartments, and God’s been providing for us so effortlessly, but at this last stage, I feel the anxiety creeping over me. It’s been easier, I think, to be faithful with little, and I struggle with the grandeur and responsibility of moving into a bigger place. Also moving is just the worst, and the thought of that upheaval leaves me weak.
It was a peculiar morning here in Princeton, punctuated by torrential downpours and now engulfed in a balmy, saturated wind that makes one question entirely any rhyme or reason to the seasons.
But the slightly ominous weather didn’t keep me from taking joy in my old haunts.
This is the first morning I’ve really stepped foot on the Princeton Seminary campus since we’ve returned from China, the first morning that I’ve stumbled upon professors’ familiar faces, students, and felt the enthusiasm regarding the course I’m to teaching in the spring on families and culture and ministry (something I probably would have told you about if we’d really been able to have coffee a few days ago like I’d suggested).
The professor who I gabbed with said the seminary culture makes her feel young, and I couldn’t agree more that the bustle and hustle of universities in the fall and the silver lining of stress and naivete and wide-eyedness is that when it really sticks (into your thirties in my case) it continues to awaken the mind, the senses, the spirit.
That’s what I’m feeling on this dreary morning: anticipation, not unlike the expectation, of which I wrote, and the thrill of being back in a couple places, the seminary and the university here, that do, finally, feel like home.
I’m at the stage in my research where I’m starting to pack up and stare down the oodles of notebooks and scribblings that I’ve made over the past two years. And because I didn’t know where to begin, I returned to a familiar sage, Fei Xiaotong, and his deceptively simple From the Soil: The Foundations of Chinese Society.
I’m continually amazed how this short book, a collection of lectures from the late 1940s is so eerily descriptive and prophetic of the present-day divides between urban and rural China and Eastern and Western cultures. Fei puts a name to the social structure and phenomena I’ve been observing firsthand over the past few years, and his descriptions Chinese culture and personhood are provocative.
On a more popular note, this past week NPR‘s famous radio show, This American Life, ran an episode on Americans in China, that lends such insight into not only expatriate life here, but the great differences between Eastern and Western cultures. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a glimpse into life in China, and I’m impressed with NPR’s at once critical and nuanced take on the challenging topic of contemporary Chinese culture.
There are still days where I scratch my head and wonder what I’ve really learned over the past two years here, but both these sources have started to put together some of the puzzle pieces for me about this complex, beautiful country.