Hello world! I realize it’s been a while since I’ve last updated, but it’s all been for good reasons. Now that I’m in the home stretch, I’ve begun doing some more reflecting on my life in China.
On January 8th, I packed one bag and head out for a 40-day trek throughout southeast Asia. I was fortunate enough to have an extended holiday for the Chinese New Year, so I made sure to travel from the moment it started to midnight of the day it ended. My trip included visits to five countries – Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore. The journey exposed me to a slice of the world I never imagined seeing before leaving the US. I had a ton of fun partaking in the typical backpacker adventures – petting tigers, riding elephants, hiking volcanoes, feeding monkeys, eating scorpion, chasing waterfalls, exploring temples, riding tuk-tuks, etc.
But what meant the most to me was meeting locals in each nation. Whether it was a quick conversation or a candid heart-to-heart, I was moved by every interaction I had in one way or another. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to see how people live on this side of the globe.
Since returning, the most surprising realization I’ve had is how my social circle has changed. I now spend more time hanging out with my Chinese friends than I do with my American friends here. It feels incredible that I’m able to relate to natives despite language barriers and cultural differences. Whether eating hot pot, singing at KTV or exploring China, I cherish all the quality time I spend with my friends here and enjoy having connections on this part of the world.
I’ve also begun to have a newfound appreciation for my home in Shenzhen. A Chinese friend of mine explained to me that many consider Shenzhen the most open-minded city in China. This shocked me, as I would think Shanghai or Hong Kong would easily snag that title. He further explained that since Shenzhen is a “new” city, most of its inhabitants have migrated here from all different parts of China.
This inadvertently caused there to be a blend of all different backgrounds and lifestyles. Also, unlike other Chinese cities, Shenzhen lacks a deeply engrained elder generation to enforce traditional values and beliefs. So, while Shenzhen is typecast as the “city with no culture,” there is actually an emerging culture here of tolerance and diversity.
It seems like Shenzhen is to China as to what America was to European colonists. In the colonial era, settlers flocked to the “New World” in America in hopes of new opportunities and freedom. In many regards, Shenzhen can be viewed the same way. Cool, right?
Overall, I see the world and my position in it much differently than I did seven short months ago. While nothing is fully planned for what life after China will bring, I can say this with certainty: I’m ecstatic to explore new opportunities to travel and serve others beyond this year in China. For now, I will continue making the most of these last three months.