The following is an excerpt from my book in the works, Ni Hao Mr. Buffalo.
The thing that was really crazy to me was that there were days when I would suddenly just have the realization that I was in China. I know it sounds crazy, of course, duh you’re in China, but when you think about life in general, you don’t generally think about where you are. I never been walking down the street and suddenly I realized I was in America. Even in I spent six weeks in Quebec during college I never really had the sudden realization that I was in Canada.
I think that what made this situation unique was that I was working and living and just doing all the things one normally does for survival, the same things I would be doing in America. So I went about my daily as I would, routine doesn’t changed just because you are somewhere else. Yeah, sure, in the back of your mind realize the food is weird and the people are speaking gibberish but you go on with the routine.
My friend Brett works with college students, often helping to prepare them to go overseas. Brett often talks about the concept of the China day, the China Day in Brett’s view is day the day where everything goes wrong. And it’s true, things do go off the rails so often when your living in China, that when everything goes right you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop.
For me, the China day came to mean a day where everything went right and I fully alive in the realization of where I was and the fact that somehow against all odds I was living my dream even now nearly five years after leaving Changsha, and after living in Beijing, I still find it hard to believe.
The China day could look like nothing more than just strolling down an ancient alleyway or eating fresh steamed baozi from a street vendor. It really wasn’t about what you did so much as throwing yourself into the experience and being fully consumed by the act of being in China.
Going to China was the hardest and the easiest thing I’ve done. Most people thought I was crazy for leaving, for not buckling down and finding a wife, chaining myself to a desk, having kids and getting buried under a mortgage (not that the normal life is bad, to contrary I want to be normal, it doesn’t seem to be in the cards). I going to China I learned the truth in Robert Frost’s words “Two roads diverged in wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by – and that has made all the difference.”