During my four week stay at Beijing, which is also known as Zhongdu (an old Chinese word meaning “Central Capital”), I encountered all sorts of aspects of Chinese life. Each morning I would wake up and step into a beautiful, spacious classroom with polished wood floors and oriental rugs. With a fresh mug of green tea in hand, I would step onto the balcony outside and soak in the stunning beauty of the surrounding mountainside (we were located within a national park).
One afternoon as I hiked along the side of the mountain, the view was so spectacular that I started to sing. I strolled along, singing to my heart’s content, until I almost smacked directly into a Chinese soldier, standing at attention. Freezing in place, I realized that I had wandered too close to the home of a local dignitary, and that this soldier was guarding the entrance to the estate. I apologized in English (which was complete gibberish to him), but the man never moved a muscle. He remained at full attention, staring straight ahead. He must have been amused by my antics, but he never once showed it.
Bowing slightly, I quietly moved away. As I made my way down the hill, I gained a deeper respect for these local soldiers and their discipline, and an overwhelming gratitude for the life of complete freedom I had been given. I wondered what it must be like to have to remain so stoic, and if I could pull it off! But most of all, I was thankful for the fact that I was free to speak, free to sing, free to think, and free to travel as I pleased.
Have you taken full advantage of your freedom today?
Photo Credit: Beijing Hongzhou Road – Shizhao – CC BY-SA 3.0