Breaking cultural stereotypes while making friends in exotic places. My recent trip to Beijing has opened my eyes as an American and as I now focus on finishing my degree in Educational Consulting, I hope to share my experiences and knowledge with others so they too can make a difference in the lives of others and their community.
Monday, July 23, 2018
Day Seven: Understandings and Misunderstandings
It’s days like these that make me the happiest. Early this morning, 4 AM, I received a voice message on WeChat from my host mom, Vera or Vereda. Not surprisingly, the voice message was from my host sister, Dora. Not only did she say that she missed me, but she wanted to know when I was coming back. My heart has shattered. I may need some stronger adhesive to keep my heart together.
There is a reason why I talk about China the way I do. I didn’t just enjoy my time and learn about China, no, I lived my time in China being part of a family and making lifelong friends. It’s hard to explain the intensity of my situation because none of you were there with me. I can show pictures and show you through my writing of the things I’ve learned, loved, and still love today.
I find myself shutting down when I don’t dream about Beijing. I miss the skyscrapers, the noise from the cars (car horns), the people, and the food. The first couple of days were difficult. Getting used to my new surroundings was a task and learning that virtually no one spoke English was only the start of my concerns. Yet, I speak about China as if it is a holy place with no problems and endless opportunities. This isn’t necessarily true.
It’s day seven of my adventure in Beijing, China. I’m not only too chicken to walk out the door of the apartment complex; I’m too chicken to even leave the apartment. I even feel weird leaving my room without being around someone I knew. I was frightened and the more I sat looking out my balcony window, the more I became withdrawn. Was I going to spend my 33 days looking out a window and wishing I had done things or was I going to do them? The answer may not be obvious if you haven’t read my other blog posts, but for those who have been sticking with me since the beginning know that I had such a fun time that China is now my second home.
There are many things that I could say that I didn’t like about China. I could list them out as if I have a right to. I could write a 1,000-word blog post about the things you would hate too, but I won’t. My experience in China is never going to be like anyone else’s. I went to China with my roommate from college and we had such different experiences that I will be going back and my roommate most likely will not.
I went on this trip because I wanted to see if I could handle living in another country and teach English to an audience. My roommate came to China to experience a new culture for the first time. My roommate had never flown before or left the country. It was a big leap to leave America for a third-world country like China. We both experienced our first international flight and stepped foot in China as our first foreign country.
Waking up at 6 AM because I was drenched in sweat was not something I like to remember. No matter how tired I was, I wasn’t going to be able to sleep with as hot as it was. So, 6 AM, on Monday, turned out to be my wake-up call as I knew instantly that the day was going to be a scorcher.
To pass my time, since Dora was awake, and I shouldn’t have expected anything else, I worked with her on an English worksheet I printed off from one of the many trusted websites I use when I tutor here in America. Drawing and coloring were involved as was learning how to pronounce new vocabulary. After the short lesson, Dora became the teacher and started teaching me Pinyin, the Chinese writing system. I quickly learned that I struggled with pronouncing “Qs” and the “er” sound. Now, these don’t sound the same as in English as much of Chinese is spoken in the front of the mouth and sometimes through the nose.
Before I knew it, Dora was rushed off to school, taking a taxi with her dad, Evan. I was now alone, and I felt the sinking feeling in my gut telling me that I was now on my own. For three hours, I sat in my room trying to decipher a Chinese character book my host mom had given me. Apparently, the book was supposed to make learning Chinese characters easy, but, with as nervous as I was and as hot as I was, I found myself forgetting everything I was reading, and nothing was sticking. I guess this put a whole new meaning to “In one ear out the other.”
I think I was starting to understand how to do one thing though. I was able to scare my host mom every morning when she woke up without even trying. I guess I was too quiet. I needed to change that, and I did some ten days later.
Instead of wasting the rest of my free time before Dora came back from school, I decided to pay a visit to the family pet, the dog, Lu Lu. Lu Lu is eighteen-years-old, blind and deaf. She’s one of the smallest dogs I ever saw, but also the most loveable. Even with her disabilities, she recognized me and always wanted me to scratch her neck. Quickly, she became my favorite.
My day went like most of my early days (day 1 until day 10). I did little in the daytime and worked with Dora at night. This process made me feel as if I was still in college, even though I had just finished the year three days before I jumped on a plane and spent over 24 hours to arrive in Beijing.
But this day was a bit different as Dora had gotten in trouble at school for hitting a boy. My first reaction was to scold her and to explain that it is never OK to hit someone. I never got a chance to say this because my host mom, Vera or Verade, told her daughter that it is OK to defend herself, especially against boys. She also said that she needs to be independent and that she doesn’t need a man to be successful.
Now, this may seem OK for some of you and wrong for others. Dora was defending herself as she was hit by the boy first. But in America, children are taught to never hit each other. It’s wrong, right?
The delicate balance between doing something right and doing something wrong is clearly different in China. The one thing I had to learn, especially at the beginning of my trip, was that my host family was non-traditional. What does this mean? A lot. I don’t think I could write all the things down to make you understand. I still struggle, at times, with understanding what non-traditional Chinese families are because they are all different.
My host parents are not married. They’ve been together for over thirteen years. They love each other as much as my parents love each other. The only thing that is different is that my parents are married. My host mom doesn’t believe in marriage because, in China, if someone gets married the female’s parents pay for the car and the male’s parents pay for the apartment or house. Vera, my host mom, doesn’t want to be held down by these standards. Though this isn’t the case for every Chinese couple, the male usually works to the bone to earn enough to buy a car and a house or apartment, because this means they are ready to start dating and looking for a wife. A man’s worth is determined by how much he earns. A woman's worth is determined by if she can give birth to a son or children.
My family (from right to left) Me, mom, dad, and Brooke
On a lighter note, I enjoyed learning these things from my host mom. She was open about situations that had happened in the past and she understands that she isn’t like everyone else. This conversation led us to my first street market where I tasted a sweet pancake. From this day forward, I asked for a sweat pancake every day. Dora enjoyed this because she always got one with me.
It had been seven days since I arrived in Beijing, China. I got used to the thirteen-hour time difference immediately after I arrived, and I was sleeping significantly better than I had ever done back home until this night. I wonder if it was because of the heat? I’ll never know, but this fact is worth noting because, for the first time since I was sixteen-years-old (seven years ago), I was able to sleep without taking medication. I took what I could. Successfully sleeping without medication for six days is now a record. I hope to break this record within a year.
How was this post? Did you like it? Was it interesting? Did you learn something new? If so, leave a comment below. Until next time, “Keep your head held high and keep following your dreams.”