It was a nice adventure spending last week across the border from Hong Kong, in the Mainland, with my daughter. She excitedly dragged me from one local cuisine to another. My daughter’s idea of local cuisine and mine are a lot different. Where she enjoys going from one food stall to another, favoring the street food, I like to eat at a well-established restaurant with a menu and bowls. On wobbly chopsticks from plastic containers, I enjoyed eating genuine delicious Chinese food though (Beijing kaoya, wonton mein, jiaozi).
I learned the Chinese language years ago, but with a big gap in between, it swirled around me uncomprehendingly as people spoke quickly and animatedly. When someone spoke to me slowly, which many graciously did, I could understand simple words. They wore smiles on their faces when I tried to speak a bit in response.
Being back amid the masses, I was surprised to experience a bit of culture shock. The jostling took some getting used to. However, there is a rhythm to the ebb and flow, darting this way and then that way through the crowds. The noise of horns blaring made me jump from time to time. The smells were either wonderful or terrible. Stinky tofu or durian was cooked or cut just outside and across the street from our hotel. Though many people love it, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I returned to my room each evening happy and exhausted.
As many of us dance in and out of various cultures nowadays, it can be dizzying. Languages we don’t fully understand, new foods, converting currencies, traffic flow, unusual smells, and the ebb and flow of people movement takes time to adjust to. It’s especially chaotic for the newbie of a different culture; however, it can be exciting and intriguing as well. Then after time spent submerged within a new culture, life becomes at least somewhat normal. As normal as we allow it to be.
If we are willing to be uncomfortable and experience the new and the different, we grow and our lives are made much richer.