While spending time in China, I have been exposed to many apparent contradictions, interesting sights, and unexpected juxtapositions. Simply seeing things like this on my walk to the subway station every morning has expanded my perspective and caused me to think differently about my life in the United States and my past experiences. At times, it feels like my life in China exists in a bubble, but that bubble is a lot wider and more varied than my bubble in the US and in Gainesville in particular.
Walking through the hutong and market area across the street from our apartments, it is normal to see a well-groomed puppy trotting alongside a ratty street dog. A woman sells socks in lemonade-stand style right next to a scooter shop full of shiny new models. A street food vendor uses an electronic payment system at his rusty old street cart outside a store stocked full of pharmaceutical medications. A businesswoman with freshly coiffed hair who looks like she belongs on Wall Street emerges from a building with caged-in broken windows. Perhaps it’s because I’m used to it, but my impression is that the visuals of America are a lot more similar to each other when in immediate proximity. This opposite trait in China inspires a sense of wonder in me.
There is also a bit of contradiction present in attitudes and statements that Chinese people actually make out loud. For example, when speaking with one of my coworkers about how people practice religion and faith in our two countries. I asked her if she was religious herself. She very adamantly shook her head and said that of course she was not religious. That was not for people like her. Within the same breath, however, she said that she believes in God and prays every day. Religion aside, I wondered if she realized just how conflicting her statements were.
In another situation, I encountered someone who didn’t have the most positive views of the United States. While they were telling me what they disliked, they picked up their phone and I realized that their phone case had the Captain America shield on it. It’s quite possible that they were not aware of where the shield came from, but the irony in this case was a bit humorous.
Just having the opportunity to see things like fancy cars parked directly next to run-down carts carrying sacks of empty water bottles and to talk to people who don’t seem to see contradictions in their statements has challenged my conception of what is normal, even in foreign countries. I hope to continue expanding my horizons in this manner and learning more about other ways of life. I have sincerely enjoyed my time in China and hope to return one day, perhaps for longer.