Explaining China

I’ve determined that it’s very hard to explain to family and friends in the U.S. what it is like to live in China. We’ve actually found it difficult to explain what it’s like to live in Vermont, but eventually people seem to understand the earthy, crunching, localvore, walkable, outdoorsy, organic, environmentally-conscious Vermont lifestyle that we strive to have. Explaining China is a harder nut to crack since most people in the U.S., and their friends, haven’t been to a developing country (except perhaps Mexico) or Asia. (Prior to May 2009, I’d spent 6 hours in Mexico and never been to Asia.) In addition, we have a the unique experience in living in a campus community with some unique characteristics (e.g., the university kindergarten, the student canteen, the local bakery, etc.) certainly not shared by most expats in GZ. My explanations of daily experiences feel so inadequate as I can’t fully explain in writing even the culture experience that was today…my today included the freshest chicken I’d ever eaten (I saw it alive), my first visit to the apartment of a Chinese, my new understanding of what Chinese mean when they say the English word “maybe”, our huge dinner for 10 people for under $50, ordering new Chinese dishes in Chinese, etc. In the end, I do hope that more people visit us so that folks have a better sense of our experience here and can help us explain it to others in the States…it’s really amazing how difficult it is to describe to people what it’s like to be in China. A new set of guests arrive on Tuesday, and then we have guests all throughout January (so maybe my appetite for guests will wane).

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