West Meets East: Just a Flight Away

West Meets East: Just a Flight Away

(Note: I currently live in and work at Sias University, located in Zhengzhou, Henan province. To give you the full effect of what’s it’s like to move from West to East, I recall the first time I moved to China when I was 23 years old.)

The other side of the world…

is just a flight away.

From age 3 to 23 I lived in the same town of 25,000 people. My home was in West Virginia with rocks, rolling hills, wild nature, and trees everywhere. The air was fresh and clean, and there was always some kind of sports competition going on that would excite the whole town with cookouts, alcohol, and loud cheering.

America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. I left that land at age 23 and moved to Shanghai, a city of 23 million people. And my, what a difference it was!

The biggest shock is that there are people…everywhere! To find an empty table at lunch time or a seat on the bus is a major accomplishment. For introverts this can be difficult, like when people bump into you or the struggle to find a public place to be alone. But if you take a second look, you begin to see the beautiful networks of people connections around you, the loyalty to family, and the sense of unity that binds each person together as the “People’s Republic of China.” You see all this and you can’t help but feel a sense of inspiration. It’s my heart that the teachers here at Sias would also be able to come together as ONE, with one heart, one mind, and one spirit to spread love to the students that we teach and the countless others we encounter just through living life here.

I’ve been to Asia, and I’ve been to Europe. And while Europe can be fairytale-esqe and has some quality eats, it is much the same as the United States. China takes fascinating to a whole new level. I’m so drawn to it. Instead of just one or two dishes for a group dinner at a friend’s house, you can expect 10 or more—things you’ve never seen!

Reading signs and papers becomes the job of an amateur detective in China—You can’t simply sound out the words, you actually have to memorize them. I always feel a little like Sherlock Holmes whenever I’m able to decipher a menu or figure out which train I need to take. Things in China are not done the way you might except. So you’re in for a life full of surprises.

The third thing I shouldn’t go without mentioning is the instant celebrity status you gain as an American in China. You are loved by the people here just for being you. China is a very homogenous country compared to the melting pot that is the United States. So you are a novelty—especially if you are white, blond, bearded or taller or rounder than “normal.” It can be fun to take pictures with random strangers, and make someone’s day just by saying “Hi” and waving. To quote the founder of our school, Shawn Chen, “the foreign teachers here are Sias University are like the pandas of China—much loved and treasured.”

Moving from West to East, taught me a great deal about the unfamiliar East, but also, it taught me so much about the West that I had been living in, but never truly knew.

So, Thank you China for all the ways you are so unlike my home. Thank you for the ways that you make me take a second look at how I’ve always done things. Thank you for making my world so much bigger.

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