Expect the Unexpected
When I first got here, I kept counting the days. I was a new inmate in this world of China; I didn’t know or understand the people around me, I didn’t recognize any of the food, and the only person whom I spoke to was my cellmate, Geoffrey.
If I actually was a prisoner those first few days, now I’m like Red in Shawshank Redemption: I got no plans to leave for a long, long time. Moving about campus integrated in a schedule that seems so cyclical, it’s amazing that with a similar routine every day I’ve been witness to so many cultural extremes and surprises.
Our first night in Shanghai
I’ve seen cafeterias crowded with students at 10pm working on research projects, only to see those same students the next day holding up China’s flag dressed in army gear marching around campus in battalions seemingly preparing for battle.
I’ve learned about people from just about every continent, background, and ethnicity, but I’ve also met New Yorkers with whom I share mutual friends.
I’ve realized that even though some smaller, unathletic looking Chinese guys can tear me apart in basketball, a sport I’ve played semi-competitively through high school, I’ve become a pitcher for the university’s baseball team, despite not having played in three years.
I’ve spent time with prominent businessmen over Beijing’s finest Peking Duck, and I’ve waited hours past midnight for a handful of 10 cent meat sticks.
I’ve received gifts from something as unique as a solar energy airplane after a business meeting to something as simple as a candy bar from a four-year-old Chinese girl after singing the ABCs with her, or a tiny orange-like fruit from a professor I met on the bullet train to Shanghai.
I’ve spent hours hailing down taxis with no success and a growling stomach. I’ve ran a quarter of a mile to chase down a homeless woman collecting water bottles to pay her for a full bottle she gave me for free. I’ve gotten ripped off more times than I can count. But through all the success and failure, I know I have yet to finish the first page in the encyclopedia of adventures that lie ahead in the coming months.