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China Reflections


Pudong International Airport, May 22, 2013

Totally exhausted, I board the 11:00 Cathay Pacific flight heading home. It’s now 13:15 and I am still on the grounded plane without a distant idea when we will take off. That’s pretty common for any flights in and out of China. Always prepare for the worst!

Today’s delay is not at all iritating to me. My time is spent reading the first few pages of a book that a China friend of mine gave me as a present last night, Lunyu by Confucius. I of course get right onto the first few pages, excited to learn more about the teachings of Confucius, the great philosopher and educator of ancient China.

One sentence immediately catches my attention, “Never worry if others do not understand you. Worry if you don’t understand others!”. My mind travels right back to a conversation I have in Najing with 2 local friends when one asks me what I think about Chinese people. Having experienced numerous bad experiences in China, I rightfully reply, “I am not talking about you two, but most Chinese main-landers carry no manner.” Silence takes over the car as we move forward…. We discuss further about the lack of foundation in the Chinese educational system later that day but never go back to the “manner” topic.

Sitting on the airplane now, reading Confucius’s teaching, I suddenly feel very ashamed of myself for judging others based on my personal background and up-bringing. How could I expect people to think, know, and act the way I do? How could I impose my culture upon the people of China? They surely irritate me to some extent and they definitely will irritate anyone else who have been so adapted to an orderly environment. However, if I am to think twice about this matter, how on earth could I blame them? You don’t know what you don’t know. When certain behaviors are widely accepted, you grow up being implanted with those concepts as normal standards. They obviously are ignorent of the fact that they do sometimes annoy the hell out of me….

And yet these great China friends of mine have done their best looking after me on this trip. Pieces of the same puzzle simply do not match. After all, it seems to be because of one’s perspective towards a matter…. My China friends know it all starts with education to change a society and they know it takes a few generations to do so. They do not know how, how long it takes and when it will happen. Yet they all live on with hope.

For now, I tell myself to learn to understand them. “Never worry if others do not understand you. Worry if you do not understand others!”


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