|My Global Perspective
Prior to visiting the far East, the only exposure I have had to Asian customs was in my Mandarin class at Palm Beach Day Academy and an occasional visit to the Panda Express down the street. I used to despise taking this class when I was younger and often made fun of the language with my friends referring to class as "ching chong chinese". I had no idea why I was in the learning something that seemed so apparently different. Middle school was nearing when I began to change my thinking and realized how learning Chinese would set me apart rather than being one of the millions of school children who take Spanish. When I found out that my dad booked our flights and we would be staying in Asia for 6 weeks, I was ecstatic. Soon, I would finally be able to experience leaving America for the first time and entering a whole new world.
Ever since our plane landed into Beijing three weeks ago, my respect for the Chinese culture matured dramatically; I began to understand how kind they are and how welcoming their hospitality is toward Westerners. Up until a week ago, I had the initial shock of “Wow, I’m definitely not in West Palm Beach, Florida”. As time has passed, I have become used to shopping in Chinese grocery stores and seeing a maximum of only 5 Americans each week. Recently, I have been thinking how weird it will be when we step off the airplane after a 17 hour flight, and all of a sudden, everything will be in English and I will be home with my mom. While at the Star River tennis academy in Guangzhou, I have met so many wonderful people and made many friends from all over Asia. Because some of the kids (and coaches) are from different countries, they decided to use English as the universal language, which I thought was so cool!! In fact, it is very common for people here to understand my language. I am currently writing this informative essay in a Starbucks that is walking distance from our apartment; when I walked up to the counter, the lady was so excited to practice her English and happily asked me with a strong accent, “Hello! What would you like to order?”. After receiving my drink, I sat down at a table and a little kid came up to me and said “Hello! Are you from America?!”; oh my goodness did this make my day! This is about the fifth time I have been approached because of my appearance (Blonde hair = Golden Hair). I will truly miss these adorable daily events when I return home.
One day, a student from the Academy and his mother acted as our tour guides around the city of Guangzhou. Their generosity could not compare to anything we have every experienced. She took us on a grand tour, making stops at a beautiful park/flower garden, coffee shop, local book store, and the infamous Guangzhou Tower (the 2nd largest tower in the world). Later in the evening we enjoyed a traditional Cantonese restaurant that was absolutely delicious. Within minutes of sitting there were so many dishes delivered to the table for us to try! It is customary for the host to present an abundance of food options for their guests. Native Chinese food is far from what a typical American thinks; dumplings, fried rice, Lo Mein noodles, and fortune cookies are not a standard. In fact, I’ve only had dumplings twice, noodles about three times, white rice every night with every meal (never fried) , and not one fortune cookie. A totally different experience than Panda Express!!
I am so grateful to have been enjoying this amazing experience over seas. I also know that it wouldn’t be the same if I had not been introduced to tennis, thanks mom and dad. Tennis is a very powerful sport that provides many opportunities to meet (and beat hehehe) people from all over the world! I have only been to 3 Countries but have experienced so much and can’t wait to continue the journey. It’s a big world, with many people, go explore;)))