I have never believed that people can fully change in a span of five months. However, I do believe that with the right experiences and opportunities, one can greatly improve the path he/she is on to be the best person they know they can be.
I am definitely still on the road to becoming exactly who I want to be. I know there are some views that I have changed, some I gained, and some that I will always stick by. Living in China has opened my mind up greater than I have expected and has shown me a new life I thought I’d never live.
My first seven days I remember thinking, “What in the hell am I doing here? I can’t teach. I can’t feel my toes, and I keep forgetting to not flush the damn toilet paper in the toilet.” I was pretty nervous to talk to anyone. I didn’t care to get ready or look nice because I felt too cold to do anything. I slept at any given moment because I was even too cold to be active. I had a [short-lived] fear that I would be a rucluse while teaching.
And then within my first two weeks, I met Ya Wei. We instantly became close and exchanged many emails all day long. We enjoyed talking whenever we could, sharing our different cultures, telling stories, and swapping pictures. I never would have thought I liked all the things about him that I do. That is someone who has completely taken me by surprise.
Wang Meng and Dong Mei. They are probably the absolute closest friends to me. I have never met two more honest people in my life and I am forever grateful to call them a friend. I never would have thought the majority of my time would be spent on campus with them, laughing, learning, and talking about life. While Dong Mei have each other to watch basketball games, Wang Meng gives me lady lessons, which I will definitely continue to use while back in America. I have no insecurities around them, no second thoughts, and absolutely no doubts. I believe that is when you know you have a true friend.
I have been at Mayflora long enough to get to know many people on my school’s campus. We joke together, we play sports together, and cheer each other on during sporting events. We help each other out, feed each other, and do favors for the other; not because we feel obligated, but because that’s just what friends do, and we’re happy to do it. And in fact, it’s never made me feel happier.
I now love practicing my Chinese on any given stranger in the city or on campus. I love flirting in Chinese and bargaining while shopping. I love the street food. I have really come to ignore all the staring, and now, find some fun in playing around with it. The field at night has become my unannounced territory as I put my ear buds in for a couple hours of dancing. My students are my everything. My memory has gotten better (thank you healthy food!) and I feel the culture has significantly helped me to “be what the moment requires” – a quote from Robert Greene in his book The 48 Laws of Power.
I never fully understood what it meant, until today.
Being what the moment requires is more than just forcing emotion and nodding your head in agreeance. It’s truly deciding to make the conscious effort to be what is necessary in any givent moment. You would never jump and run in a skirt and heels. You would never use profanities in front of anyone that doesn’t actually know you on “that kind of level.” And I certainly hope that you would not ever be the loudest one, unless given a valid reason to do so. That last one I am still working on.
Because of Wang Meng, we agreed I could be 70% lady like and the rest, I can get sweaty, play sports, have a beer with the guys, practice kung fu, be loud, be crazy, be wild – but not when I should be a lady. And it really shows me just how inappropriate and unattractive it can be if I am not in “the place” where it is permitted. It’s a conscious choice on my part to put his advice in action. I don’t need to be all those things or show I am all of those things all the time. Only when required.
I have learned more things than I thought possible. I have learned to love kids more than lot of other things. I have become more of a woman. I have bathed in sophistication. Fought with a Kung Fu Master. I became tolerant of using my right hand. I can be completely confident in my words and actions and refuse to apologize for any of my honesties. I played with little kids. I’ve played in soccer games, got more into NBA, and learned exactly how to throw a punch. My flexibility has significantly increase. I have seen glamoous sights right down to the fece-infested streets. I’ve given and taken meaningful gifts. I’ve made solid bonds. I’ve been inspired and inspired in return.
So for these last seven days, now that I know this city so well and truly love these people I surround myself with on a daily basis, it becomes harder to pack my luggage. To go back to America and literally count down the days until I step foot in Bengbu again. And not just Bengbu, for that matter, but all over China. All over the world.
With seven days to go, I remain grateful. I remain honored. I remain in love with the city that opened its arms to seven strange, ignorant Americans.
It’s something that can never be topped.