China / my Chengdu life

My Chengdu

By Katie Wong ( Updated: 2016-03-11 13:57

China Daily website is inviting you to share Chengdu Story with us! and here are some points that we hope will help contributors:

My Chengdu

Growing up half-Chinese in Texas, I was never really aware of my heritage, save for an early ability to wield chopsticks and a propensity for rice. The first time I really understood that China might play an important part in my life and identity was in high school, when we read the works of several Chinese authors. I found myself intrigued with this very different culture, so distinct from what I saw and experienced daily, yet possessed of something familiar and enticing.

In 2007 I visited China for the first time, and was overwhelmed by how quickly I fell in love with the natural beauty, history, art and pace of life. My travels that summer brought out emotions in me I’d never experienced. I longed to walk down village streets, and to ride on the subways and trains that made transportation within cities, to see everything and everyone, to experience the different vistas and cultures that were contained within China. The more I traveled, the more it became clear: I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to live among these people who looked like me and still were so different.

It was 2011 by the time I made it back, choosing to move to Chengdu. My first impressions of the city have stayed with me, and still hold true. Chengdu is a surprisingly green city, full of warm, helpful, welcoming people, delicious food, a long history and endless treasures, if only you’re willing to explore a little.

In trying to learn Chinese, I also learned to laugh at my mistakes, rather than criticizing myself. Patient Chinese friends celebrated each step of progress, and I grew comfortable fumbling my way through interactions for the sake of connecting with the people around me.

Each part of learning Chinese was interesting to me: the pictures and meanings behind characters, the long history of how the language developed, the culture and traditions encapsulated in daily sayings and stories. In the difficult moments of practicing characters, I found myself thinking of old letters from my Chinese grandmother, painstakingly written in blue ink to my father that I’d seen, but not understood as a girl. I would imagine writing to my family in the same way, and press on.

In adapting myself to Chengdu’s culture, I found myself feeling at home often, and also occasionally baffled. My father’s constant gift-giving made sense to me now, and my own desire to be hospitable grew, as I desired to welcome my friends into my house and to see them enjoy the mix of Chinese and American ways of doing things. And when something I did puzzled my friends, or vice versa, it was always a good opportunity to laugh, and to learn from each other.

In learning to navigate around Chengdu, I became confident, not only in venturing out on my own, but also in speaking to strangers, and relying on their kindness and compassion. On every new street I found fun shops, beautiful parks, gatherings of majong players, and the smell of huajiao (Sichuan pepper) and lajiao (Chilli) on the breeze. At times I would just stop and take it all in, amazed at how at-home I felt, how grateful I was to be here, experiencing a life so very different from what I had known in America.

Even my taste buds became more Chinese, as I grew addicted to the spicy Sichuan style of cooking. Things I’d never liked before became favorites: eggplant, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and cabbage of all kinds. Instead of looking for Western restaurants, I asked my friends to lead me to styles of Sichuan food I had yet to eat, enjoying nearly everything set before me.

When I first arrived in Chengdu, I had no idea that the city would become more than a home. Arriving was only a small part of a dream come true; now Chengdu is in my veins, a part of my identity and thoroughly incorporated into the heritage I cherish.

My Chengdu

About the Author:

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Katie graduated from Baylor University in 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and English. She traveled all around China (and several other countries) before finally moving to Chengdu in 2011. She is proud to be half Chinese and half Texan, and considers her time in China to be a way to connect with the heritage she was mostly unaware of growing up. She has a passion for writing, blogging and communication of all kinds.

The opinions expressed do not represent the views of the China Daily website.

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