It was my first taste of China, so many months ago. It was there that I struggled to slurp up soupy noodles (and ended up spraying Sam with broth and spices in the process). It was where I realized the words I’d learned on Rosetta Stone – “cat,” “sister,” “flower” – weren’t going to be much help ordering food, getting housing or interacting with people on a personal level. And, it was were a few other Drake teachers and I started to piece together an understanding of this beautiful and bizarre country.
That first time in Beijing came at the beginning of the semester. We climbed The Great Wall, lazed about the Old Summer Palace and ate scorpions on a stick. It was fun, but I knew next to nothing about the place I’d landed myself. So it was a weird juxtaposition returning there nine months later to pick up my mother for her 10-day visit to China.
Though our itinerary was similar the second time around – The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace – it felt so different. Probably because I was different.
After nearly a year of living in China I’ve changed. I now know the history that shaped the psyche of the nation, know the words of importance, and I know how to use chopsticks pretty damn well.
Last time, we floundered with the subway system in the city and the bus system getting to The Great Wall. This time, I could recognize the characters for the four compass points on signs and could lead my mother around like I’d been here a thousand times. Last time, we pointed and mimed to order food and tickets. This time, I chatted and joked with locals, ordering our meals with ease.
Simply put, my relationship with the country had changed.
I was no longer a naïve China newbie, trying to find my place. I’d found it. I understand it.
And that’s pretty damn great.
Have you ever “gone back?” What did you think about it?