When we talked about models in class, I mentioned that my model for our group would be the first day of kindergarten. As I boarded the plane on my way to Beijing, I remember thinking, what on earth am I doing? When I first mentioned wanting to come to China, my family was under the impression I was merely kidding. Little did they know, I was completely serious. It feels like we arrived just yesterday, unpacked our bags and tried to settle into building 18, our new home. I remember my first time in the cafeteria and how overwhelming it was, I didn’t know what to order or even how to order. I somehow ended up in a foreign country,with people I barely knew, different cultures and customs everywhere I went, that I did not understand. I remember being terrified to offend anyone, or to do anything perceived as wrong really.
My, how things have changed. These people that were pretty much strangers have become friends, really good friends. There’s just some experiences you can’t get through without becoming good friends. This is one of them. Whether it is getting rained on late at night in Hohai or dancing around a bonfire in Inner Mongolia. Or even all those nights just sitting around and talking at Helen’s. I’ve gotten to know their likes, dislikes, allergies, birthdays, pretty much much everything about them. Most of these close friendships I would never have expected to have formed. We’re all such different people brought together, who would not ordinarily come together, and that is amazing. We are quite the combination. If we all made up one person, we would be the most interesting person in the world. I care so much about each and every one of you. Although we may not spend a lot of time together once we return, I will forever treasure our time in China, and all of you as my friends.
These experiences I shall carry with me for the rest of my life. My first time riding a horse was in inner Mongolia with all of you. My horse, as I am sure you all remember, Hazel, was the crazy one. The horse who wanted to pave it’s own way, and chase other horses, and stop randomly. I’ll never forget her, and the fear of dying that came along with her. Or walking into a cab, finding out the driver spoke English and was also a fan of Britney Spears’s greatest hits. Singing along with Aly, Maria and our cab driver to “Oops, I did it Again” on the way to Helen’s. Getting stuck in Hohai in the rain, walking around together. Spending Maria’s birthday in San litun. Using a bathroom in Shanxi that was literally a hole in the ground. Listening to music in the bus on the way to one of our many destinations. Sitting together and sharing a meal. I couldn’t forget this experience if I tried.
At the end of the first week, I distinctly remember wanting to leave China and never come back. Yet now, here I am, having a lot of trouble with the idea of parting with this Country. This country that challenged me, pushed me, made me uncomfortable, irked me and generally annoyed me. This country that made me miss home. This country that intimidated me, made me feel more like an outsider than anywhere else I have ever been. This country that I did not initially understand. This country that broke me. This country I cannot let go. This country that showed me I was independent and self sufficient. That I could be strong and brave. This country I have come to love, understand, and appreciate.
This country that has housed me for 7 and a half weeks, which is about 55 days, or 1,320 hours. A short but sweet affair, an affair I’ll never forget, an affair to remember.