The truth, my friend Song and I agreed, is somewhere in between. When people see things from completely different points of view, more than likely the reality lies in the middle. Song and I were having lunch towards the end of the Olympics in the International Broadcast Centre cafeteria and I asked her what she planned to do after the games ended. She said she’d like to return to Europe and travel around for a while. Maybe visit Serbia and Montenegro this time.
“You should come to America?”
“Oh no, not America.”
Turns out since Song was a small girl she was told negative things about America that cloud her view to this day. I explained that the United States was not what she imagined, that it is diverse and she would be safe and welcomed warmly by Americans. Song has been out of China before. She received her Masters Degree in England and mentioned that as she got acquainted with her new classmates she was surprised that Westerners were not as she had been led to believe growing up. She found it all quite confusing and wondered if she had somehow been misled. I explained that if she visited America her experience would probably be very similar to that.
In the end China was not how I imagined it would be. It is a fascinating, welcoming land with friendly, mostly content people. They work hard and enjoy life. Most in Beijing share in China’s prosperity and get along fine with the government. Many think the laws of the country are sensible. Confucious teaches obedience and it is embraced by the Chinese people. I was even surprised to know that some young Chinese are not willing to judge their leaders and recent history. It’s not because they are afraid but because they believe it is too new for them to have the perspective that comes with time.
During the closing ceremony as the IOC’s Jacques Rogge complimented China on “exceptional games” he said, “through these Games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world.” Hopefully that will be the enduring legacy of this time in Chinese history. The door will open a bit wider.
Now as I sit home and reflect on the adventure I had I find myself missing China very much. I miss the yin and yang of the old China and new China. I miss evenings hanging out on the rooftops in the hutongs drinking Tsingtao beer with Chinese and Western friends. I miss walking down busy Beijing boulevards and seeing shops and lanterns and so many people coming and going on foot and bicycles. I miss tai chi in Behai Park. But mostly I miss Jack and Eir and Ming and Song and Sophie and Lynn and Matt and all the laughs. I especially miss the immersion into another culture and the opportunity to really see a country through the eyes of someone who lives there. One learns that despite what they’ve heard, the truth is somewhere in between.
For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com