I lived in China for nearly 5 years and moved back to the US in 2012. I was so excited to reunite with my friends, explore a new city, and re-engage with American culture and all of the fun things I missed (mostly food!). I distinctly remember having a tear in my eye as I stood in the aisle with all the options of chips at the grocery store. I was mesmerized and giddy. A massive rush of freedom rushed over me as I thought about starting a new life in America.

A few months before I left China, I worked hard to email several friends to let them know I was returning so I could find a new roommate to share an apartment with. When I finally returned, bought a car, and spent some time with my family, I was excited to see some of my friends that I only got to see once or twice a year and finally relaunch a more permanent friendship with them. …

Is it possible to over-market your business? Is it possible to do so well at marketing that your business can’t keep up and therefore turns customers off and actually ends up hurting the business?

There’s a local coffee shop here my hometown in Colorado. They have crushed it in terms of marketing their small business. Their instagram is brilliant, they’ve built valuable partnerships with other small businesses, they get positive media coverage, and they even created a semi-viral YouTube video. From a marketing perspective, all of that stuff is fantastic. So what’s the downside?

The downside is that their coffee shop literally has about 30 seats (I counted them). Most of them are small two-seater tables, so if customers are there doing work alone, then the space will be functionally maxed out at about 20 people. This is a problem because now it’s hard for me to decide to go there. It’s too risky. There’s a high probability that I will drive the 15 minutes there from my house only to find out that there’s no where for me to sit. This happens almost every time. I end up crowding into a small bar section that is barely deep enough for my laptop and watch like a hawk until someone leaves. …

Much of my international travel is in support of humanitarian work, so, as a result, I see difficult places and hear gut-wrenching stories. I meet with people who are exhausted, yet full of joy. I dine with people who have given up everything, but have gained more than they could ever ask or imagine.

When traveling, one thing I always try to remember is to laugh at myself and with other people. If I can’t carry joy with me then I’m probably doing more harm than good.

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One of my favorite things when I travel is befriending locals who never expected to make a friend. Shopkeepers, waiters or waitresses, taxi drivers, and hotel staff are all people I interact with daily. No matter where I go, the common language spoken between us is big smiles and laughter. My colleagues and I always do our best to be advocates of loving one another and building bridges of friendship across a variety of cultures. …

One friend recently described it as “passion fatigue.” Home after home. Story after story. Tears upon tears. Desperation. Poverty. Hopelessness.

We’ve seen it all, heard it all, and choked back as many tears as we can. We’re passionate about helping and passionate about finding solutions, but, over time, fatigue sets in and you start to doubt. You doubt that you’re making any difference at all. You doubt that it’s worth it. If you can’t get to all of them, then why even try?

Syria is in the midst of a horrific civil war, while at the same time, ISIS is attempting to sweep across Syria and Iraq. This has left millions without a permanent home, food, education, or a future. I’ve sat in their homes and tents. Hugged them. Cried with them. Most of the time, they just want to be near someone who will listen to their story. At the end of my time with them they will often say something like, “Thank you for coming to my home and listening to my story.” …

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Sometimes in life, we get to reflect on what we’re doing and what we’re a part of and celebrate that we get to do something that really matters and makes a difference. I don’t know about you, but that helps me go to bed with a smile on my face and wake up with energy.

For the past few years, I have been working alongside my colleagues to bring aid to refugees who have fled Syria and Iraq in search of safety. This crisis has been called one of the greatest humanitarian crisis’ of our lifetime. It’s my opinion that there isn’t a “calling” needed to respond to this situation. …

Make sure you read part 1 and part 2 to catch up.

I met Daisy within the first few days that I lived in this small town in China. She was one of the first to talk to me after my class. She was outgoing, smart, friendly, and her English was excellent. She would recruit her friends to go get milk tea or snacks after class with me and we would all sit and chat. …

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Need to catch up? Read part 1 here.

My feelings of regret and what-in-the-world-have-I-done faded quickly as I began to dive into my new life in China. This was an all new experience. Chinese food in China is not your average General Tso’s Chicken from the food court at the mall. Chinese food in China is out. of. this. world. And then there’s the new culture I set out to explore. Grandparents dancing in the park. Grown men doing tai chi. Was I on the set of a movie or was this real life?

I went to orientation sessions for four days in Beijing and learned all about what my new life would like. I learned about how to be professional in the classroom, how to build quality friendships with locals outside the classroom, how to not look like a goofball at the market, and how to get along well with my team of other teachers. …

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I was wide-eyed and excited. I had packed my entire life into 2 suitcases and a backpack. Notes from friends, picture frames, even a couple of left over Auburn football pompoms to remind me of home were stuffed away in those bags. The combined nervousness and excitement was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The memories now even feel like a faded dream from last night that I’m trying to describe to a friend over morning coffee.

My mom broke down in tears at the security checkpoint at the airport. I remember that vividly. My dad stood strong and silent. I laughed a little in that moment, but that was to keep me from sobbing too. The furthest I had ever lived from home was one summer in college when I went to North Carolina to fly fish and work at a pizza restaurant in a small mountain town. …

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When I see my friends doing something compelling or interesting, I have this deep desire to do anything I can to help them succeed. Does anyone else feel that? I want to do what I can to help push their art or product or whatever. And I don’t mean I give them advice or lip service. I mean actual help. I was thinking about this recently while out walking my dog. Things popped up from way back in middle school and I noticed a common trend from over the years that I have a strange desire to help people accomplish their dreams. …

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The other day, I was asked, “If you have a contract to work X hours per week with a client and you are going over those hours doing tasks that are not directly what you signed up for, what would you do?”

I thought about this question for an hour or two at my office until I saw this friend later in the afternoon. I said, “I have my answer, but I know you aren’t going to like it. Nevertheless, it’s still my honest answer.”

I said, “I would choose to be generous over being a stickler about the contract. I would generously give more of my time, and as a result, give more value to the client than what I am receiving.” …


Jonathan S. “Biscuet”

Colorado is home | Privileged to share amazing stories of hope from the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia through ELIC.org | Former Beijinger | Fly fisherman

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