Finding Community in a Gym – Kelly Branyik, China 2014-2016
Photos from Kelly’s Service
Kelly Branyik’s Peace Corps Story
Where and when did you serve? What did you do?
I served in Chongqing, China and taught Oral English to High School students in a vocational tourism school.
What is one of your favorite Peace Corps memories?
Such a difficult question to answer! It had to be celebrating a true Chinese Lunar New Year in Handan, Hebei. It was a very big contrast to how people celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year where I lived. I lived in the southern part of China, but celebrated in the northern part of China one year. The traditions there were amazing to experience and much closer to the ancient traditions. It was where I learned some of the stories of why some traditions in China came to be.
What is one of your least favorite Peace Corps memories?
I don’t typically look at my memories and dislike any of them. Each one was crucial to molding me into who I am today, whether good or bad. In truth the overall experience was very challenging for me for a number of reasons, but I still think fondly of my experience.
What do you miss about Peace Corps?
I miss my family and friends. I miss the food. I miss the ease of walking everywhere and the accessibility to cross-country transportation. I miss my healthy lifestyle. Feeling free and like I could do anything. Having no bills to worry about.
What is something you learned in the Peace Corps?
I think I learned how easily it is to be humbled. I was once the loudest person in the room because I wanted that validation that we all seek. I wanted to be heard and I wanted to feel important. When you’re in Peace Corps, you realize that you’re not the center of the universe, what you think isn’t always right for everyone. You learn that you don’t have all the answers to everything. One thing I did learn was how to relate, be more understanding, and be more compassionate and loving toward my neighbors.
Do you have a favorite quote or local saying?
I can’t type the characters on this computer, but the pinyin for it is Shun Qi Zi Ran. It means to go with the flow of life. And I often had people say this to me when I was in moments where I tried to control my circumstances (which wasn’t always realistic). Some things just can’t be controlled and sometimes our greatest lessons come from going with the flow.
For more from Kelly:
If you want to know more about Kelly’s Peace Corps service, check out her blog at: travelbranyik.com.