When I travel to other countries, I am always asked what surprised me the most. Thus far, I have not been shocked by anything in China, however, what has impressed me is the extent of extremes I have observed. For example, I knew of economic development in China, but did not consider the smog or the amount of constant construction of buildings, businesses, and infrastructure everywhere (America has some serious competition). I knew the population of China, but didn’t realize the frequency of cities with populations with over a million people. I knew I would experience new foods, but didn’t expect to eat whole fish, stinky tofu, and dozens of other items I have no idea what they were called or what they consisted of.
I have also been astounded by the historical accounts as well. This started well before I came to China. I knew about the Long March, but not the extent of the struggles of snow, hunger, and other extremes people endured and the distances they travelled. I knew Mao Zedong had a primitive background, but didn’t understand the extent until I saw his childhood bedroom just steps from and in the same building as a pig sty. I knew Mao had his picture published, but didn’t realize how prevalent it would be this many years after his death. Finally, I knew Mao had written poetry, but hadn’t examined its complexity and deeper meaning until we analyzed it together.
From my experiences of what I have seen to what I have done, I have stretched my boundaries on this voyage.
–Derrick, history teacher, St. Joseph, MO