It has already been an entire month here in China. ONE WHOLE MONTH on the other side of the world! The differences between China and America are vast. One of the most helpful classes in realizing this is Philosophy with Karel, who is our mentor/teacher/employer while we are in China. We use this time to explore the thoughts about culture and discuss our experiences and our frustrations. On Wednesdays, a Chinese student comes in and discusses his/her thoughts with us. It is eye-opening hearing the stereotypes and generalizations about America. It is equally eye-opening to discover that our views and ideas about China and even other countries are wrong. Cultural awareness is not something you can just study and become an expert in. It is experience and the dawning the life style of a culture that betters your understanding of the different views of the world.
Not all our time is spent in class. We spend a lot of our time shopping because it is a universal pastime! We have gone to some of the more popular malls like the Roosevelt, the New Mart, and the Galleria! One of the most exciting things we have experienced was being able to understand prices in Chinese when buying something! We frequent the New Mart because it is within walking distance unlike the Roosevelt or Galleria. I say this from experience, not lazy American culture. We have walked from the Roosevelt before and it was an unpleasant journey that lasted almost forty-five minutes. Our goal has been to avoid another experience like that. We have gained a firm understanding of public transit here in China. We have adventured using the subway, the bus, and numerous taxi’s. The latter is the most thrilling, and stressful because traffic procedures are drastically different from the United States. Often, your cab driver will swerve, zip and zoom around pedestrians who don’t have the right of way, or a fear of Jay walking. Slowly, as every day passes we stray further and further from the cross walk finding the path of least resistance. It doesn’t matter where you are, when it comes to traffic you aren’t safe. Not even the sidewalk, which is more of a parking lot than anything.
We are decently busy throughout the week, with classes, homework, and our tutoring jobs, but we still manage to explore and meet new people! We have encountered people from more countries than I can count! Places like Zimbabwe, Korea, France, Nepal, Uzbekistan, and more! It was the most interesting thing interacting with our new friends as they converse in their native tongue, then turn around and talk to us in ours. We all gathered one night for a birthday celebration and a game of charades. I found this ironic because until we have a better understanding of the language, our experience can be described as one big game of charades. The word Chinese would be pulled out of the bucket, and the person would point at a Chinese person in the room. The word man would be drawn out, and then someone would point to a man in the room. But when the word student was drawn out, it was amazing to realize that we all share that one aspect of our lives. We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and native tongue, but we all come together as students.
We have learned a lot so far here in China. Every day is a new adventure and every day brings a new excitement, frustration, and realization about the Chinese culture. We plan to continue our learning and adventuring while we are here! We’ve been here one month already! This means we have all of three months left and you can bet your lucky dollar we are going to make the most of it!