My first evening in Asia I was overwhelmed by the pollution, the strange smells, and the crowded streets. In my jet-lagged state, I thought I would never be able to call this place home. But after a good night’s sleep on my very firm mattress (in America, I think we call them boxsprings!), I had a much brighter outlook on my new life here. I was so grateful to be able to settle right in, joining my friends who had been here for 2 months. Within a couple days I realized I have grown to love it here! For the first week, every time I rode my bike through the city streets, I experienced a rush of adrenaline as I brushed past buses and taxis, dodged oncoming bicycles, and veered to avoid pedestrians. Now, it’s just part of daily life!

Before I arrived, I wondered how I would make Asian friends. I needn’t have worried! I could tell right away that God already had friends lined up to meet me. My first full day here, my friend Dove and I were riding our new bikes toward the local college campus. Dove’s bike pedal suddenly fell off in the street. We walked the rest of the way to the campus, and found a bike repair shop. As we stood waiting for the bike to be fixed, a student named Jennifer walked up and introduced herself, offering to give us a tour of the campus. We were happy to go with her, and felt an immediate connection as we talked. She has great English, and has been to America as an exchange student.

Within our first week, Dove and I had dinner twice with Jennifer and her best friend Lily , and went ice skating with the two of them and their roommates Sarah and Eleven (who was surprised to hear Americans don’t usually have numbers for their names! Her native nickname means “One One,” thus the number 11!). Lily and I don’t like to ice skate, so we sat and talked while the others skated. During the hour while the other girls skated, Lily and I had a really good conversation. I felt a special connection with her as we talked about having true happiness, and I told her how God has a purpose for our lives.

We have met so many friends in random ways: breaking a bike pedal, getting lost for 2 hours, sitting at a table with strangers in a crowded restaurant, and people walking up to us asking if they could talk to us to practice their English. It’s incredible to see the friendliness of people here…there is such an openness right now!