Finally Facing the Unknown
I am in China!! I still have to remind myself that I am over 6,000 miles away from home, halfway around the world. Yes, of course I am blown away by the differences I have experienced in China, like the food and restaurant culture, the massive buildings, and the size of this city…but more surprising to me is how at home I already feel.
Before leaving, I wrote that the 3 things I am most apprehensive about are the food, the pollution and the amount of people. And although I have been here for less than 2 weeks, I already feel less nervous about all three. Yes, I have had challenges with each of them already, but nothing too serious.
First of all, I am a picky eater so I was worried about finding food. I will also admit that I am not a fan of Chinese food, even American Chinese food (I know, I’m crazy), but I have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of options I have been able to eat. And honestly, I am proud of myself for trying different things, and sometimes (most of the time) blindly eating without asking what it is (it’s better if I don’t know). So food has been crossed off “my doubts list” and I am no longer worried about starving (You don’t have to worry either, mom!).
Secondly, the pollution. I grew up in Mexico City, so I have definitely experienced pollution in my life. But since I moved to Colorado, I have gotten used to the blue skies and crisp-high-altitude-air. I wasn’t excited to face really bad pollution and feel sick and groggy all the time. I don’t want to jinx it, but so far we have been pretty lucky with the pollution. I have already felt the effects of the pollution, and we’ve had to wear masks a couple days (which can be fun with friends, see picture ;) ), but it has definitely not been as bad as I expected, and it is just something I have to adapt to for the next four months.
Finally, the amount of people! This has been the most realistic one. I have already been shoved into a bus, herded like cattle, and had little room to move. But since we live outside the downtown area, it has not been as bad as I imagined. However, it was especially bad last weekend when a group of us went to the Yuyuan Gardens for the Lantern Festival, which is the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration. It was an amazing experience that I am so grateful I got to see. We slowly moved with the crowd through the streets of this traditional area in Shanghai, and enjoyed the beautiful lanterns and decorations. It was my first taste of a traditional celebration, and it was cool to see the Chinese people’s love for their culture. And their love for taking pictures with white foreigners!
My last little gusanillo (itch/concern) before I left was…everything! All the unknowns: who will I meet, who will I be friends with, will I like my classes, will I like the program, will I like China…?? So many thoughts and questions circled my head these past few weeks, actually for months. And I had no way of answering them before stepping off the 14-hours plane ride. But now, most of them are answered, and thankfully, none of the answers have unfolded with my “worst case” scenario. Actually, I’ve been pretty lucky in every case. So the biggest lesson I have already learned is to not be afraid of the unknown…especially when it is going to take you around the world and push you to become a more well-rounded and sympathetic person.
There is a lot more to say, but honestly, not enough time! I have to continue exploring Shanghai, practicing Chinese, enjoying the crazy night life, and being present right here…in Shanghai!再见