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  • "很好吃, this is very good," I manage to say in faltering Mandarin Chinese, in regards to the melon I am eating.

    Across from me sit my best friend's father, mother, and brother, who cannot speak Mandarin. They say something in their dialect which I cannot understand.

    An awkward sort of staring contest takes place before I say "I cannot understand your dialect" in Mandarin. They reply, and the eating recommences. It's more to give me something to do other than look at my hosts with whom I cannot communicate.

    "Ben" has gone to fetch "Christina" from our hotel in remote Huan County in northwestern China's Gansu Province. It's one of the first times that I am completely alone with people I cannot communicate with.

    After "Ben" returns, we talk about what happened, and as he translates for me, I begin to loosen up and roughly understand what's being said.

    I listen to the stories of these people sitting around me and I am filled with awe at what Ben's father and mother have been through and what they have sacrificed in order to make my journey to their home possible. I feel a rush of gratitude for their unconditional love and hospitality.

    Over the four days I spend in their home, I realized how truly fortunate I was to have met them and experience their unparalleled kindness.

    To this day, I have yet to meet people who are as kind, generous, and unfailingly loving to a stranger as they were to me.

    I became their son - I sat at their table, I ate their food, I met their extended family, I talked with their neighbors, and I developed an intense and unexplainable bond with these people with whom I could barely communicate. We exchanged gifts, laughter, stories, and the excitement that comes from a rare experience such as ours.

    I will be forever grateful for what they have shown me about life and family, and I am longing for the day when I will see them again.
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