Last week I tried to help an American friend set up the accounts needed to shop online. These sites don’t have English interface, and they are more complicated than American sites. I have enough Chinese ability to figure most of it out. Sometimes it was trial and error. I think this is “register.” No, it looks like it is actually “log-in.” We better go back and try the other one. (For the record, the word that is used for “log-in” online is translated as “register” in every other circumstance.) There were a bunch of places where I made educated guesses or had to try something twice (stupid green sliding bar that we think is a security measure). But we ran into problems and started getting an error message that I couldn’t understand, even when I used the dictionary. My understanding had reached its limit, and we had to move to plan B—ordering things with my account (I did manage to get my own set up properly) and having her find a native speaker who will hopefully be able to get things straightened out. I suspect that it may involve contact customer service, and it will be faster and less frustrating if someone other than me does that.
A month or so ago I had a chatty taxi driver. He believes in Buddhism–we agreed that having a faith is important–and showed me pictures on his phone of him dressed up like a Buddhist monk. I asked him why he believes in Buddhism. Of course, I only partially understood his answer, even though he was pretty good at trying to make it simple. What I understood was along the gist of it makes you a good person and helps you with the things you need in life. But there were a lot of other interesting things he said that I didn’t understand at all.
Yesterday I was trying to flag down a taxi, and the first taxi that came actually had his “pause service” sign up. Shockingly, he pulled over and asked where I wanted to go [this almost never happens, you are more likely to have open cabs pass you by]. There was another woman sitting in the front seat. He said okay to my destination and I got in. When he didn’t start the meter right away, I asked about it. He said he would start the meter when the other woman got out shortly. She got out a few minutes later and he started the meter and took me to my destination. I think that the woman was someone related to him and he was dropping her off at the university where she studies or works. Since I was going that direction, he stopped for me, as his first customer of the day. But my guess could be wrong, who knows.
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)
“For [God] has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me Blessed.” (Luke 1:48)
Living in a foreign culture, in a land where I am only semi-literate, means I often wonder what is going on. I live in a state of half-understanding. I can do some things with educated guesses. I am totally baffled at others. Some things I can do with no problems, at least the majority of the time. Then there was the day last week when I didn’t understand someone asking my name.
“How can this be?” I often wonder.
Living in China teaches me to live in ambiguity, in a state of not having all the answers, of not knowing of things will work out. That mindset helps me to appreciate Advent. Advent is a season of great mystery and wonder. The barren woman conceives a child in her old age. The teenage virgin conceives a child by the Holy Spirit. A light shines in the darkness. Crooked roads become straight. Christ has come and Christ will come again.
I can’t fully explain the mysteries of the incarnation or the trinity. But I am learning to wait and to trust, and understand what I can and be satisfied that this is enough for this year. Next year, I may understand it all a bit more. Until then, I reverently ask “How can this be?”