A Story by Avinash Mahbubani

Volunteering Adventures in Qingdao.

posted on February 24th, 2014   966 views

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There are few experiences that make you realize that life is full of surprises, and it just so happens that two of these experiences emerged while volunteering in Qingdao. The first was when I visited a school for the blind, and the second being when I went to a school for children with autism.

The first trip was when I traveled to a school for the blind with my class, an event organized by our professor, Dr. Eric Shepherd. Our group, called 中美文化纽带, was divided into teams of two, and I went with a partner to an individual classroom to talk with the kids. The kids would ask me questions in Chinese like, “What kind of music do you listen to?”  or even after brushing my arm, a child asked: “How come you have so much hair on your arms?”  Before you knew it, they were no longer too shy to bombard me with questions. Then, a slightly older student came into the room and spoke to me in an almost perfect British accent. Not only did his accent stun me, but the words that flew out of his mouth shocked me once more; he had asked for my thoughts about the U.S. International Trade Deficit. I believe we could have talked for hours on end, but, shortly after meeting him, it was time for us to part…I look forward to the day that I get to see Kevin again!

Now, during the second trip I traveled to a school for children with autism. It was an eye-opening experience to see how these blessings learned to color, how they were taught to overcome man-made obstacles inside the building, and above all, how they reacted when foreigners like us entered rooms. One child in particular was so excited that he kept jumping from one end of the room to the other, ran through all the obstacles with ease, and was eager to show off his gymnastic skills by doing handstands and other unique tricks. Upon leaving, I wanted to lift him up to give him a goodbye hug. Unexpectedly, he calmed down while up in the air, then proceeded to start poking the black specks on my face. It seemed he was fascinated by my 5 o’clock shadow. A few seconds later, he eased his head onto my shoulder and gave me the warmest hug goodbye. It seemed as if he knew it was time  for me to leave, and the hug felt as if he didn’t want to say 拜拜.

These are only a few of my adventures in China that have helped pave a path towards a future that I want to live for. That path is now leading me back to Qingdao this summer, so that may begin climbing my next mountain.  Not only am I thrilled about going back to China, but I’m very excited that I may get a chance to see those little guys and say 好久不见!

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