Our man in China

Tom Jr. left today for a two-week journey to China. He won’t actually arrive until tomorrow morning around 9 am our time which I think is a full day ahead of us so he’s currently traveling into the future and will be taking a trip back in time when he returns home.

He’s traveling with 12 other classmates and three teachers from St. Louis U High including the Chinese teacher who has done this trip several times. The students are all members of SLUH’s Varsity Chorus and they’ll be performing in several different cities in China but primarily, it’s a sight-seeing, tourist-type trip with a few performances tossed in for good measure.

Chris and I both figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and when those opportunities come your way, you’ve got to take them. So off he went today – no longer a boy, but now a young man, a high school graduate who is ready to see the world.

It’s hard for me to fathom the adventure that awaits him. I’ve been all around the U.S., to Puerto Rico, in parts of Canada and slight ventures into Mexico. Back when I was in college, I had the chance to visit my brother, Frank, who was studying for the priesthood at the North American College in Rome. We visited several cities in Italy, saw countless museums and churches and also traveled by train into Germany, France and Switzerland.

But China! I just can’t wrap my head around China.

To me, it’s this Communistic, militaristic, over-populated land where everyone dresses alike, thinks alike and they are constantly on the go – on their bikes, their rickshaws, their small vehicles and overcrowded public transportation. All I have are assumptions. All I have are generalities.

It is frightening to think that Tom Jr. will be over there with nothing more than a passport to prove who he is and if, by some remote fluke he were to get separated from his group and wander off into a crowded market and get confused about his bearings, I would be helpless to do a thing about it.

Sure that scares me. At the same time, I am excited by the possibilities – knowing that Tom will experience a culture that I most likely never will. He’ll see the great wall of China. He’ll be in Tiananman Square. He’ll be in major cities and tour the countryside as well.

He’s taken a camera and I hope he remembers to use it and use it often. He also has taken a journal and I encouraged him to write down what he saw or thought about each day that he’s gone.

This is our first true experience of Tom being away for any extended length of time while the rest of the household is here, going about our business. So I guess it’s good prep work for when he goes away to college in the fall.

We really haven’t seen much of Tom the past year as he’s been so heavily involved in SLUH activities of one sort or another or hanging with his friends. We are sort of a boarding house in that regard. But he’s always been here in the morning or the afternoon when he got back from an overnight stay at a friend’s. Even though he may not have been at our house, we didn’t feel like he was actually gone.

It’s not like he was halfway around the world or anything.

But now he is.

Already, I miss him.

We hope he has the time of his life.

And we can hardly wait until he’s back home to tell us all about it.