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What we thought were humble living conditions were, in fact, far more hospitable than some of the places we saw as we roamed the quiet town of Xizhou. We stayed in one of the three properties operated by the Linden Centre. Our residence was called Yang Zhuoran (YZ). It was unexpected and unique in many ways: first, we did not expect to stay in such a place.  It was the former home of a wealthy merchant and had it had a few rooms on two stories facing a simple courtyard. The entire enclosure was first sealed by a large wooden door and then a metal fence further down the exit path. YZ was interesting for more than just being a sharp change. It was also an interesting combination of opposites. Like the shikumen housing I saw in China, it was a combination of eastern and western styles.
YZ and the other Linden Properties came to be due to the work of Jeanee and Brian Linden. We were actually able to meet Mrs. Linden, and she told us about her mission and the struggle to execute it. It had taken her and her husband years to acquire and restore the locations that now belong to the Linden Centre.
After she gave her talk to our group, she continued talking about China and I was slightly off-put. She had a view of China that I found far too rosy. She called her endeavor to preserve the culture of Dali “one of passion”. However, what if it was her “passion” that was preventing Xizhou from modernizing? It’s difficult to know what’s right in situations like these. As Mrs. Linden talked about the beauty of China, I sighed as I recalled the stories Hsiao-Mei told us about her youth during the Cultural Revolution. I suppose I’m having difficulty reconciles all the images of China I have in my mind, which are numerous due to my own experiences.

Unrelatedly, I thought it was very strange to experience nighttime in Yunnan. Kunming started to go bed at 9 PM and Dali did even earlier. My life has always been filled with so many stimuli at all hours I’m awake for, so this was difficult for me to grasp at first. Something felt “wrong” to me as I saw shopkeepers pack up. I felt like there always had to be something to do, some bright lights to see.
This helped me realize something about my past: whenever I would visit India as a child, I was never content with the simpler style of life. I am at a point in my life where I can appreciate that lifestyle, even if I’m not used to it, and I’m thankful I’ve made it so far.
Speaking of being thankful, I want to express that sentiment to Mrs. Linden. Even though I didn’t relate to Mrs. Linden’s words, they still reinforced an important lesson I’ve learned from my teammates: be fearless.
I’ve seen this in some form from everyone, but Sara’s is most clear in my mind.  She told me a story of figurative cliff diving and it’s stuck with me. But in all seriousness, I want to thank my friends here for being so kind while I’ve been trying something new.