Two and a half life changing weeks.
Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou, Zhouzhuang.
Richard, Oscar, Jessica, Cheryl, Self, Shelly, Ken, Julan, Irene, and Vivian.
If only I was still there.
Where? China, the country where my grandmother had taught a short course each year for five years. I boarded three planes for a total of 20 hours of air time to visit my grandmother. I had visited China before, in the fall of 2005. At that time, I was only 11. Now, as an 18 year old, my perspective through which I saw China and everything within was different. I was older and more mature, but also more interested in connecting with others and different cultures.
Shanghai was my most favorite–the lights, the people, and the sights. I rode overcrowded buses, subway trains during rush hour, taxis with very assertive drives, and walked. A lot. I admired the city lights of Pudong, the new section of Shanghai. I walked under the faint street lights of the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. I talked to college students. I met Cheryl, a student of my grandmother's who applied to Cornell University, the school where I will attend this fall of 2012. I went to a Chinese Christmas party at the University's German Culture Center. I held a New Year's Party at the University's American Culture Center, at which I spent the whole evening talking to six lovely students interested in America. I went to eat hot pot with Oscar and Jessica, two more students at the University who were close to my grandmother. I smiled, laughed, and communicated with Chinese people–past the language barrier, past the cultural barrier.
In Suzhou, I met my "Chinese Uncle," Richard. He had been a student of my grandmother's earlier in her exchange teaching years, and now considers her to be his "American Mom." Richard is a kind man who led my family and I around Suzhou and Zhouzhuang. He haggled with shopkeepers, caught taxis, and ordered way too much food for us. On our last night in Suzhou, Richard and I had a joint birthday celebration with a traditional Chinese cake. He opened his gifts from us, and was very appreciative of them. The next morning, as we were leaving the hotel, the hotel desk staff handed me a bag. Within the bag was a necklace and four figurines, a birthday present from Richard. We were sad to leave him.
Beijing was nice as well. There, we spent Christmas Eve and Day. My mother and I sang Christmas carols while walking down the street. We visited the zoo, Tian'amen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. Here, I learned more about the history of China.
But I cannot forget my time in Shanghai. My heart yearns to go back, to see my friends again. Even though I only spent that one evening with Julan, Self, Shelly, Irene, Vivian, and Ken at the New Year's Party, it was sad to leave them. Such a fun and wonderful night ended with sad hugs and hesitant good byes. I left home to come home, as China became my home. It became my way of life. I learned so much from the people there. I learned to adapt, to accept, and to love others no matter what.