During the first week of the Jinhua Homestay project, we were asked to write a short article or essay about our first impressions of life in the village for the Jinhua Daily. They didn’t end up publishing the articles in their entirety (probably because they realized that 300-400 words from 42 people would take up an entire issue), so I present my essay here, on my last day in China. The full articles from all participants (don’t worry, they’re mostly in English) are now online at http://www.jinhua-homestay.com/en/voices_suoyuan.php.
Open Doors and Open Hearts in Suoyuan
The first night we arrived in Suoyuan, I sat down to dinner with my new housemates in our homestay. While we were eating, one of the other foreign participants remarked that the doors were still open, and we were told that this is a common practice. Here in rural China, keeping the front doors open for neighbors, friends, and family to drop by to visit or eat is not unusual, which is very different than what I am used to in my home country of the United States.
In the U.S. and Europe, even in small towns, we tend to keep our doors closed for privacy. In large cities and in many Western cultures, people have a tendency to separate themselves from their neighbors and their communities, including by physically shutting the doors and keeping people out of their homes. By keeping the doors open, it communicates a welcoming attitude and a sense of trust that is sadly often missing in this modern world. It is refreshing to see such a strong sense of community in Suoyuan. These open doors mean anyone is welcome to drop in to ask a favor, drop off something, or just to stop by to chat.
These open doors are a symbol of my time in Jinhua. These open doors and the people that come through them are a huge part of what makes this experience so special. The people of Suoyuan have opened their doors, literally and figuratively, to more than 70 strangers from all over the world. Our hosts and hostesses, as well as other community members, have taken time and effort to ensure that we are welcome and comfortable in this village. By opening their doors to us, we have become a part of the community, even if it is for a short time. We are thankful for this chance to learn more about their community and their daily lives, starting with walking through these open doors. And we know that when we leave, the doors will remain open for us to come back.