I think this will be the first of many installments on this subject. I can't possible write all about my China life in one post. What I want to do is give you glimpses, one post at a time.
My husband and I, and three of our children lived in Beijing, China for two years. My husband was sent there on a business assignment to open a sales office. Both of us had independently served as missionaries for our church in Taiwan before we met, so we both speak Mandarin Chinese. Our experience in China was amazing, the fulfillment of a life long dream.
The people in China are the country's greatest asset. They are wonderful, kind hearted people. They are giving and helpful. Everywhere I went I met people who were willing to help, willing to befriend me.
Throughout my time in China, I developed a closeness to them as a people. There is something abuot their culture that is different from ours. They are not only fellow citizens, but because they have been cut off from the world for so long, they are actually family. They think of each other as having the same blood flowing through their veins. To them, to be chinese takes on a different meaning because of the blood connection. It almost seems that to them it is a joke that someone could seek nationality there if they aren't ethnically chinese. To be Chinese is more than to have citizenship.
I saw this feeling of "family" often during my years there. One time I was riding the bus and saw an old man board the bus. The buses are very crowded, and every available space is used. As the old man struggled to keep himself from falling over, he reached over and put his arm around the shoulders of a young man. These two did not know each other, but they were totally comfortable standing side by side, the one supporting the other. No words were spoken, no apologies made. None were needed, they were family.
Although I am not ethnically chinese, I began to adapt to this feeling of family. There were several things that happened to help me to settle in and feel at home. I began, in a sense to also think of them as my brothers and sisters.
In China there is very little "personal space". This may be due to the fact that there are so many people living in China. There is no room for personal space. When you board an elevator, you can expect to be standing chest to back, and shoulder to shoulder. One time my husband was in a taxi with some coworkers who were tightly pressed against his sides. He said there was something almost comforting about the closeness. That is something we in the United States don't understand. When you are that close physically to others, you begin to think of them in a different way.
Another event helped me to look at them more as brothers and sisters. One day as I was walking down the street pushing my baby in the stroller, a Chinese woman stopped me. She put her hand next to mine on the stroller and with surprise said to me in chinese, "We are the same color!". I have olive skin, and so did she. I have to admit that even I was surprised to see that she was right. When boundaries of skin color are taken away, people finally begin to see each other as equals.
Even though our life in China was difficult at time due to the lack of "creature comforts", I believe that we will some day go back. It isn't so much the land we miss, but the family.