“It’s Not Bad Or Weird, Just Different”

August 29, 2015

Being in a foreign country has put some of my emotions to the test these past couple days. It’s absolutely amazing being here and experiencing the life of a culture so vastly different from the United States. Yesterday was a much better day and brought my optimism to higher levels. Jet lag still has the upper hand on me, but I know that’ll adjust in time.

We went into the city again and ate lunch at a fried chicken place in a ginormous mall. The chicken was probably the first hearty and filling thing I ate since being here and the taste made me want to cry with happiness. China moment: While we were walking to the food court we saw a man dragging his dog along to leave and the dog decided to poop right there in the middle of the mall floor. That was something new to see.

While eating lunch in the food court, my head teacher gave us some advice that she received when she went to Brazil to study abroad. She said: “It’s not bad, it’s not weird, it’s just different”. A dog pooping in the mall is different, as is babies pooping on the street, us squatting to use the bathroom, having a hard wooden board as a bed, squishing people into buses like sardines, and not drinking the sink water. None of that is necessarily bad, and none of that is weird because to them it’s just life.

By gaining an understanding that this is in fact the way they live gives me a certain perspective to remain in this trip with an entirely open mind. Nothing they do is bad, and while it may be different enough to be upsetting, it’s not their fault. It’s their reality, life, and culture. Being here for the past few days has already showed me how much there is to be grateful for in the United States. We take for granted our soft beds and we don’t appreciate the fact that we can sit down on a toilet. We don’t realize that our streets are actually not all that dirty (compared to here). When a bus is full, we don’t try to fit more people on… many of us respect personal space and wait for the next one. There’s no personal space in China. And finally, we can drink out of a sink without getting sick. We take advantage of the little comforts and freedoms we have. I guarantee that as time passes, I’ll discover more and more things to be grateful for back at home in the US.”

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