Kelsi James shares a video poem as a reflection on her experience serving as United Church oversea personnel in China. 

Published On: January 8, 2020

Kelsi James shares her video poem "[REDacted]," as a reflection on her experience serving as United Church oversea personnel in China. 


So there’s this little alley

Where you can buy vegetables and fruits

And nuts and seeds and sprouts and shoots

and you can ask for the price with your hands

and somehow, everybody understands

You’re not told how people get concerned you’re alone

And offer you shelter inside their homes

You’re not told how they’ll cook you plate after plate of food

And ask of your mood

And tell you that you’re skinny,

But we can fix it.

You’re not told that the rich and the poor live side by side

And still decide

On wide-eyed communal pride

For their children

Their beautiful children, who have no time to sleep

But who still keep up to the steep pace of industrialism

You don’t see the schism

between the proudly political country

and the people grinding under pressurized productivity

You don’t see

The people, who, regardless, hold my hands, and tell me

The future is pure hope.


The teachers, who won’t be cowed, do what’s not allowed,

And research what they shouldn’t

So students have info they otherwise wouldn’t.

The parents who pay for their children to learn languages

They themselves don’t know,

So that they will be safe and included

anywhere they go.

We can’t know

The teens who cross the street with elders in hand

Folding their dreams into the shape of their motherland

The strangers who don’t cat-call

Or touch me

Or make me feel small

The strangers who stop me because:

I dropped my phone, or

don’t know my way home, or

haven’t tied my shoe, or

can’t read the menu, and stop me because

They want to help me through.

The new friends, who say

Let’s share this tea,

And if you want more,

You just ask me.

Do you miss home? Let’s go to the movies

Let’s eat pizza with way too much cheese.

The new friends who are tired and hopeful,

And still so proud

The friends who say,

Let me lead you into our crowd

For we are a people, but more than our sum

We are billions of one and one and one and one.

But I call you, and I tell you, and you say:

Are you okay? Did you keep yourself safe today?

And I tell you, I’m happy, and I’m well,

And I am so very [REDACTED].

And I tell you, turn on the news,

And choose something new to learn,

But the anchors’ pages turn,

And my truth is [REDACTED].

I want to say, yes, that exists and it’s scary

And yes, that is happening, and I have to be wary,

And no, we cannot turn a blind eye

But try, would you just try, to wonder why

We are so quick to generalize and demonize

And nod our heads and turn our eyes

On someone else’s propaganda,

When we ourselves still don’t talk about [REDACTED]

And have not  attempted to even solve our [REDACTED]

How can we speak the way we do,

When we have a hurting history of [REDACTED].

How can we say we know what’s true,

When we have political feuds that make us

So quick to fire,

And so slow to admire.

What if I told you that I believe [REDACTED],

And that I am not [REDACTED],

And I wish you could see all the [REDACTED]

That’s here to see.

I wish you weren’t [REDACTED],

And that I [REDACTED],

And I know it’s inconvenient to change,

But what if we just [REDACTED].

Would you think about it? For me?


– Kelsi James is United Church of Canada Overseas Personnel, currently serving as an English teacher in Lanzhou, China. Read more about her experience in China.