Friday, July 16, 2010
Do I love it?
Now that I’m back home and planning to go back to China for one more year, people often say to me, “You must really love it there.” I never know how to answer this statement. It’s a little bit like assuming that someone loves their job because they have been there for several years. I don’t assume that people love their job just because they keep going back to it. Sometimes, a person just needs a job and has to sacrifice their ideal life for a stable job that brings a salary. In fact, everyday I do things that I don’t just love doing: showering, brushing my teeth, jogging, eating bananas, and dusting. I don’t just LOVE doing any of these things, but I do them. It’s similar to living in a foreign country. I don’t LOVE being there. I don’t like that the climate is pretty much always uncomfortable, either incredibly humid and sweltering, raining, or freezing cold. I don’t really love that people stare at us and make generalizations about all foreigners based on our actions and habits. I don’t just love that people are always giving unsolicited advice; “Wear more clothes. Don’t eat at the back gate. Don’t have chocolate if you want to lose weight. Don’t take a taxi. Don’t stay out past 9:00 at night.” I also don’t like how the word for “foreigner” in Chinese literally means “Outside person.” Forever an outsider, never an insider. Always trying to feel normal and organic in culture that has labeled you as being different. Does it sound like I just love being there?
However, there is a joy that comes from the obedience I feel in being there. I can’t really explain it but sometimes it washes over me while I’m walking home from work, watching the grandpas and grandmas play with their grandchildren. Or when I’m sitting on the bus, marveling at the fact that any bus makes it one day without crashing, as the bus driver careens in and out of traffic. Some people pay big bucks to visit an amusement park while this bus ride only cost me one Chinese dollar (about 18 cents). Or as I’m talking with the store owner and he’s explaining his ideas about why people adopt children. Yes, there is a price that comes with living in a foreign country, but there is also joy. If it were simply one way or the other, it would not seem like a very realistic experience, but I can tell you that I experience the ups and downs of life just as deeply if not more living away from family and familiarity.