I’m here in Kunming, the Spring City, and I’m getting more comfortable every day. The first few hours or so of sitting alone in my strange dorm room, not knowing where to go for dinner, feeling jet-lagged and highly conscious of how alien everything seemed, was a very scary moment. But the feeling didn’t last long, and now here I am with a group of people who are very nice, on a beautiful campus, a lovely city with sunny weather. I’ve grown surprisingly comfortable speaking Chinese, but there’s still something about having to express yourself in another language that occludes so much of who you are. Or at least who you think you are. I find my Chinese-speaking self is much shyer and reticent than my English-speaking self. It’s interesting to be here as an ethnic Chinese, but also as a visitor and student in the language program. Essentially, I look Chinese but am still very much a foreigner. After having seen the blunt stares other more obviously foreign-looking students have, I’m glad I attract less attention. At least until I open my mouth =).
Kunming reminds me so much of Taipei sometimes, especially the crowded streets, the open-air storefronts and narrow, crooked alleyways. It’s amazing how many THINGS and PEOPLE and BUILDINGS can be packed into an area that at the same time manages to feel spacious, sunny and green. I’m sure pollution is becoming, if it isn’t already, a major problem for the district. The nice thing is that everyone seems to take advantage of the park and green spaces that are available to them. Yunnan Normal and Yunnan University both have beautiful campuses that elderly folks, children, couples and families like to congregate in every day of the week. There’s also a large park called Green Lake Park nearby that becomes very crowded especially during the weekends.
In any case, this whole experience is turning out to be less scary and more exciting than I had thought it would be. I suppose there is only one thing that feels confusing/difficult to manage. Maybe I’ll post about it later and you can all tell me your thoughts about this wrinkle in my mind.