Thursday, October 4, 2012

Home Again

Sarah Unruh, Carissa Westfall, and Chelsea Paulsen enjoy touring Qingdao.

Charlie stands in a room of the house he
and his wife built for their young family.
A view of one of the rooms in
Charlie's former home in Qingdao

My veteran, Mr. William Marsh, and I first met in the Chicago airport. Mr. Marsh seemed like a quiet man that would keep to himself, however, I soon found out I was incredibly wrong! Mr. Marsh is a spunky man with lots of energy! We often race down the street to our next destination. Mr. Marsh was in China for about a year, and he was one of the first Marines to meet Charlie. It has been difficult for him to remember everything that occurred while he was here, but I really enjoy hearing what he does remember. One of his favorite memories, like many of the Marines, was taking Charlie out on leave, and taking him to the movies. Mr. Marsh said that the Marines got more of a kick out of watching Charlie's reactions to the movies than the actual movie itself.

This morning we drove to Charlie's old house where he raised his family. As we all piled off the bus, there was a sea of family members there to greet Charlie. They were excited to take him back to his house and they quickly led the way, urging Charlie to follow. We soon found ourselves in narrow alleyways filled with people and honking cars. All 33 of us squeezed down the alleyways to get to Charlie's house. Charlie and his family built the house by hand shortly after Charlie and Jin Mie were married. From the moment we opened the metal doors to the front yard of the house, Charlie and his son David were flooded with emotions. Charlie was sad to see that the new owners of his house didn’t take very good care of it, but he was grateful to have the chance to see it once more.
With tears running down his cheeks, David told me how difficult it was for him to be back at this house. David had been born in the house and this was only the second time he had seen it since he moved to America at the age of 14. David said there were some joyous times in the house, but also many hardships. His family was very poor and had very little. He said it was hard when he had to babysit his siblings while his parents were working. Some of David's favorite memories are the times he got to spend with his siblings playing games. It was very humbling to hear about how David’s family was thankful for each other, even though they didn't have a lot. They knew everything would be all right if they stuck together. Today was a good reminder to us students that family is important, and that we can make it through the hardest of times if we lean on God and have each other.

Free time in Qingdao
After visiting Charlie’s old home we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon exploring the city. We started the afternoon by going to a four story department/grocery store. The store was basically a Macy's and Wal-Mart rolled into one. There was something for everyone: scarves, jewelry, watches, tea, chopsticks, tea pots, clothing, and shoes were all options. It was similar to the malls we have in America, but there was a lot more stuff packed into one area.
After everyone had found some souvenirs to take back home we went to the May Fourth Square. The May Fourth Square is a beautiful park near the ocean and just a short walk from our hotel. In the square there is a beautiful fountain with lights all around the grass. Near the water kites filled the sky.  Many of us were given the opportunity to fly a kite, and we had a blast learning how to get the kites in the air without getting tangled up in all the other lines that were very close. After flying kites we put our bartering skills to work and got many small kites to bring back as gifts for friends and family. We really enjoyed walking the boardwalk and taking in the culture of Qingdao; it was a much needed relaxing afternoon.

Today was a great day filled with tears and laughter. I really enjoyed seeing where Charlie lived and spending some free time together getting to know each other better.
Chelsea Paulsen

Charlie, Jin Mie, and their son David stand in front of the
door where their picture was taken in 1983.

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