Remembering China fondly today, it will always be close to my heart. This Valentine’s Day, I am posting a blog entry of mine from September, 29, 2008. For love of my second home.
Similaries and Differences
If I am sitting in my room with the windows open on a cool fall day, I could be in China, or Michigan, they both feel the same. If the kids are playing in the park and I am sitting on the bench watching, it is the also the same. Sitting in Starbucks reading a book is no different. There are times in China that feel just like Michigan. When it’s hard to notice the differences, but here we have luxuries that we would not have at home. Yuan-Yuan comes for the day to clean and cook, and Mr. Tao pulls up in a silver Buick minivan to cart us all over the city. These things are very different. It feels strange to have someone else taking care of my home. I miss driving. I miss having a car to jump into whenever I want to go somewhere.
There are many wonderful things about this experience, many adventures to be had, but there are also wonderful things that we have left behind. We are seeing parts of the world which many will never see, we are learning a new language, and culture, but instead of learning it in a class, we are living it. We are strengthening our minds and our spirits. It is a growing experience which I believe is very important for our children, especially in today’s world. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is a hard, but rewarding thing to do. I am proud of us for taking such a bold step. I am proud of my children, for even though they may not have had much of a choice, they have handled it well.
We have left our home, friends, and family to move to the other side of the Earth. That was very hard. As we all know, our home is a soft place to fall, and when things get tough that is where you want to be. I look forward to the first time I sleep in my bed at home again, lying my head down on that soft pillow, and being a car ride away from those I love. We are doing great here, but we look forward to our upcoming visit.
There are so many differences in our surroundings here compared to home. When a guest arrives, you bring them a cup of warm water. This is better for the body. They will take off their shoes at your door even if you tell them they don’t need to. You must offer them a pair of slippers. If you ask your Ayi or driver if they’re able to do something, the answer will be “yes.” They will not tell you that they do not want to do something, or know where something is. That would be “losing face.”
There is not a fourth floor in most buildings, as the word for the number “four” sounds too much like the word for “death.” I’m sure Yuan-Yuan is not happy that Carleigh has drawn a three foot tall “44” on the wall by the study. She has had to pass that forbidden Chinese number 20 times a day, and I think she’s afraid to touch it to wash it off. You can’t drink out of the tap, and must order water for the water cooler. Most bathrooms STINK. Here you learn the places that have Western-style bathrooms and avoid the ones that do not. Tissue is always carried with you, as bathrooms do not always have toilet paper, or soap, making hand sanitizer a must as well. Surprisingly after the last statement, there are always workers cleaning on the street, and in the buildings. You will not have trouble finding someone to clean something up. Service in restaurants is better than in the US, and no tip is required. You must ask for your bill or it will never come.
You’ll never see more bikes than you see in Shanghai. You will probably never see as many cars either. You would be amazed at what can be fit on a bicycle. Don’t ever think you can’t move a refrigerator just because you don’t have a car. Nothing is too dressy to wear while riding a bike. Heels are almost a must, good for any occasion. Ankle-length nylons are fine with capris, or anything else for that matter. Getting there first does not mean it’s your turn, getting noticed first does. If this means pushing to the front of the line, so be it. Sleeping can be done anywhere, and is.
We enjoyed living in China. Its differences are intriguing and its similarities, when found, are little gifts.