Since my first residence in China in 2004, I’ve scarcely found myself able to stay away for any significant length of time. It’s hard to believe I’ve spent six years in China, and though I’m in the last six months of ever (one is never to say never ever right?) living here again, I know the impression it has made on me is indelible. Mandela said, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Without a doubt, the allure in living in China wasn’t always about China. Though I’ve had a great time meeting expats from all over the world, getting to know them as friends and learning from their diverse wisdom, it was always more about myself and my country and culture. We are a simple people until we make life complicated. Leaving the confines of one’s home and home network complicates matters and we become complicated with it. But, in that complication is growth and maturity.
What I know about the U.S., how I feel about the policies adopted and how I recognize my old friends and family have all changed dramatically in this time. The last two years in China have been difficult, to be sure. Their growing power and economic might have set off enormous waves of nationalism, pride and conceit–and I’ve had enough of being a “foreigner” in a land that, frankly, judges me every second of every day as I walk down the street. There are facts which they don’t know about me and other “foreigners” who live in their country. They like to blanket us all with the same stereotypes and treat us as if we are all pop culture and main stream media products. It seems difficult for them to realize that we’re not all the same and that, despite our success in our native country, we came to China for change, or a dose of their culture, or travel or fun. We’re not here because we HAVE to be here, we come because we CHOOSE to be here. And, many of us, when we return to our native soil will be just fine.
Two things I did find while living in China: I am passionate about education. I tried my hardest to be the best, most effective English teacher while living here. I’m grateful for those few students I’ve come across in six years who worked hard to meet me halfway in that effort. As a result of my new found love of education, I’m currently pursuing my M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. I’m hoping to take my passion for learning, teaching and advising back to the United States where I hope to help American students become better, more prepared, more knowledgeable students.
Second, in China I met the sweetest, most thoughtful, selfless, beautiful, intelligent and witty young woman in 2006 who later became my wife. We have two children together and the three of them represent my life as it is. Nothing makes more of an impression on a person in another country than meeting people from opposite cultures and finding that your commonalities are greater than your differences. We are all people, after all, with the same concerns, needs and hopes for the future.