William Smith was a passionate man, very smart for his upbringing and an incredible ability to envision the world in 3D. Meanwhile he had little confidence in his writing and always felt an unspoken need to procrastinate.
I love that little tidbit of information because it is a little tiny piece of affirmation that my path is right for -me-. My time here in China has been a form of procrastination. This is not to say that I haven’t done anything useful here, or that I’ve been wasting my time. I have been both distracted and focused on other things, partly out of a personal need for “other.”
Today I feel like I’ve recovered some of what was lost and am a healthier person. Maybe I’m even able to help others at this point. I certainly try. This doesn’t mean that I never call anyone stupid and I never throw fits over other people’s behavior, but it means that I am better able to deal with those feelings.
I do find myself often offended by cross-cultural issues for a few reasons. That does not make me any closer to sounding like a university campus student-of -color advocate than I was before. I still find that some of those causes are too rabid and comically reactionary for me to get involved with. No, what infuriates me are people who spend short amounts of time here and put very little effort to interacting in Chinese society. Many of these business-type analytically minded people make wild claims about what they “know” about China. The problem is that this knowledge is ill founded and unsubstantiated. This is painful for me. My experience in China is varied but limited by my face and stature. I can’t hide my “otherness” and that means I am treated differently.
I do get a few more insights along with my language and reading, but there are factors that limit how truthfully and completely people will interact with me:
1. I am a woman.
2. I don’t smoke.
No matter how much it might amaze me, I cannot and do not wish to overcome these obstacles.