China? Surrounded by 1.4 billion people! A country 36x bigger than NZ. A land, where the sun and brilliant blue skies are a distant memory and the pollution is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Where most days you wake up to a different shade of grey. Food is not always fresh and what is fresh you have no idea where it comes from. Where you will not have the luxurious lifestyle (well most of us won’t) that you may have in New Zealand and there will be moments where you feel completely and utterly lost and alone in a ocean of people.
Not the best marketing pitch really and there is so much more to experience, immersing yourself in a culture where the language is completely different. Where the people are glued to their cellphones and mobile devices. Where most people grew up without a sibling. Where you marvel at how remarkably different we are from one another and how we are the same, how we are all connected through humanity. So why come over and share this experience with us even if only for a few days?
Number one on my book, you learn the power of human resilience, connection and communication. You begin to comprehend just how lucky you are to have learnt to “live” as a child growing up in such an open, enquiring environment and how just naturally you can think on your feet and see the bigger picture. You realise how lucky you are to have a haven at home to return to.
While there are a lot of things I wish I knew before coming to China, the surprise of discovering new things every day has definitely made my life here an adventure. China has it all. It’s a completely different world that will never ever, be fully understood by us foreigners. China is so large and complex, discovering new aspects of life and culture are just part of the fun!Yes, you will have preconceptions about this country before arriving and my advice to anyone thinking of checking it out, don’t believe everything you hear or read about this country. Arrive with an open mind. Be completely open to experience new things.
Get ready to become so much more “shameless”. Surrounded by a world of strangers, nobody cares what you do or who you are. There is no pretence needed – they take you for face value. Being yourself is so very refreshing.
While you are here you will experience the pushing, the cutting in lines, the yelling, the honking, the gawking, the spitting, the smells, the thrill of playing Russian roulette with your life every time you cross the street. Stay around a while and you learn patience by the bucket load. You realise what a waste of time and energy it is to take things personally or to heart and dwell on the negative.
- You learn to laugh at yourself.
- You learn not take everything, including yourself, so seriously.
- You learn to be okay with the trillions of things surrounding you that you may not like, that you will never change.
- You learn very quickly to pick yourself up and move on to the next challenge, getting pushed and shoved every which way.
- You learn a whole new set of coping mechanisms when you find yourself so frustrated having to explain or communicate something so simple over and over again, that you just want to scream.
No matter how long your stay, you will learn how to communicate through charades, become more assertive, ask for help from anyone, gain far more confidence in yourself and let loose, that adventurous person inside of you.
Constantly, your mind will be blown away as you observe the history in the shadows of towering skyscrapers, next to dilapidated apartment complexes, as you witness the demolition of entire communities as people live and work among the ruble and the landscape changes over night. You will walk streets, lined with Louis Vuitton, Prada and Fendi only to turn the corner and be confronted with shacks and stands of cheap Chinese goods, or the blue huts (little boxes) for housing the thousands of labourers that come in from the farms to earn a living, far away from their families. Blink and you’re back in the middle of any western country with KFC, MCD, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks etc.
(6) Home Again