Living in China has been a transformative experience

2021-01-14 12:05:42

For those fortunate enough to go to college, the experience is very often one that brings profound changes. Young people's minds are expanded. They meet people they may never have otherwise met, and they do a lot of growing up as they get their first real taste of adult life. When I started my bachelor's degree at the University of Georgia, in the United States, I was a small-town kid with a lot of curiosity. Just over four years later, I was in some ways a different person. I spoke a second language, had lived abroad and was more worldly-but still with a lot left to learn. Now, many years later, I have been taking stock. Between Shanghai and Beijing, I have made China my adoptive home for about twice as long as I was in college. Even after decades of work and raising children and just plain living before I crossed the Pacific Ocean, China still changed me. It has taught me to look at things from many angles that I may never have considered, and taught me the value of patience-even though I sometimes forget the lesson. It has taught me that as humans, we have much more in common than not, and that also applies to people from a very different cultural context than our own. China has reinforced my belief that what counts are life's experiences, loved ones and good friends-much more so than material things. These years have confirmed that things do not last, but relationships and memories can endure. It has been humbling and fascinating to live in such an ancient society. I live just a short walk away from the remains of a city wall built more than 700 years ago by Kublai Khan-known as Emperor Shizu of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). I've walked the streets of ancient water towns in Shanghai. It also has been an amazing experience to live in two of the world's great cities, with impressive architecture and transportation systems, and to see the pride people take in their nation reaching outward to the moon and Mars. But what really sticks with me is the friendliness of so many people here. We will forever be grateful for the generosity of people who have been willing to help, in ways great and small. There is a sense of vitality and life in neighborhoods that's contagious, too, and that will always be a great memory. My wife, Delores, and I got married right before we left to move to China, and it's the only place where we have been a married couple. This shared experience has made our relationship stronger. She had never lived abroad, but took to the experience with enthusiasm. The one area of Chinese she learned well was numbers-both the verbal expressions and the hand and finger signs for the digits. She's a former bank branch manager and I guess it comes naturally. I'll never forget her rapid-fire haggling at markets. So during this time of holidays, both Eastern and Western, it is a good time to express our sincere thanks to the Chinese people. It has been a great privilege to pass a portion of our lives here.