In a third tier city, a foreigner is a rarity and a celebrity. We are, in the words of Ron Burgundy, "kind of a big deal." We are treated well! The other day I was riding the bus, and a young lady gave up her seat to me and told me that she had seen me downtown before and that it was "her dream" (her words) to talk with me and she was so happy her dream came true! While many Chinese people are too shy to speak English with a foreigner, others, like this girl, are anxious for every opportunity they get!
"What was it I liked about being in China? I knew our relationship was a selfish one. I enjoyed the way being in China made me feel. There was a sense of independence there, a lightheartedness, a liberation from anything other than immediate needs, and an escape from the worries that preoccupied me at home." -- Liam D'Arcy-Brown
- I've had the opportunity to do things I would not have qualified to do back home. Like teach Medical English, and appear on a television show.
- We've had the vacation time and the savings to travel all over Asia -- six weeks every winter to go where we want and do what we like.
- We've had lots of adventures with food and been invited to more lavish banquets than we can count.
- We've met members of China's accomplished, hard-working, aspirational and inspirational middle class. Their fathers and grandfathers were farmers, (or as we call them for some reason and just think about how condescending it sounds, "peasants,") but they made it to university and they dream of sending their children to university in North America.
- We have only to mention a problem or perplexity we're having, and somebody will drop everything to help us. We TRY not to abuse this!
- We've had the opportunity to encourage and help deserving, hard-working young people. It's been a privilege to meet them.
- We've formed friendships for a lifetime.
- The lifestyle is very affordable. Let me put that another way. We can actually afford to have a lifestyle. For us, that means not working a forty-hour plus week, and we eat out a lot.
- Living in a new environment tests you. I think it's especially an especially good thing for young people. Who are you, and what are you made of, and how do you behave when things get difficult?