Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Growing Up in China, and I Don't Mean My Kids

"Can you summarize your China experience in one sentence?" This was the question posed to me by one of three students from a local university. I'll get to my response in a minute, but let me give you some context. This was an interview set up by an old Chinese friend of mine who is their English teacher. Students from their university are compiling a book of foreigners' experiences with Chinese language and culture. I was also asked to write a short excerpt for it. They showed up this morning a week earlier than I was expecting (my fault, not theirs) so they got to see what foreigners look like when they have gone for a long walk on a hot morning but not had time to shower change into anything other than the equivalent of pajamas. Lucky kids!

We talked for about an hour and they asked me about things like my most embarrassing language moment (I don't really have one), homeschooling my kids as opposed to putting them in local schools (the whole concept seemed to baffle them) and the best ways to learn language. They also shyly asked me for advice on living in America. It was fun to answer their questions, although I found myself having to pause occasionally and swallow hard before I could answer because it was digging up so many memories for me. I thought it best not to weep in front of three strangers who would probably be freaked out and feel responsible, "Teacher, we made her cry! What did we do wrong? Are all Americans this emotional?"

But this question about summarizing my China experience in one sentence stumped me for a minute. I finally was able to answer, "I know this might sound strange, but I have grown up in China." They indeed looked puzzled, so I continued, "When I came to China, I was 26. In China I learned how to be a mom, how to be an adult. China has been the background for me to learn to be a mature person (at least as mature as I am at this point!). It has forever influenced who I am."

They said this was the best answer anyone had given to this question. :)


Unknown said...

Gina, You mean all that time you were on the team in Minnesota you hadn't grown up yet? That explains so much!

Gina Marie said...

Nope! I'm still not! But I'm more grown up than I was. :)

Andrew said...

I like it too =)

Ali Wilson said...

I know what you are talking about, Gina. I was 24 when we moved here and I've definitely grown up here in many ways.