Friday, February 22, 2013
It's Just Never How You Imagined...
"It is not how I imagined it would be." Isn't that so often the tagline for big experiences?
As I prepared to move to Shanghai, China I knew I would never accurately imagine or envision what I would find, but I knew it would be big, crowded, full of sights, sounds, smells, tastes I had never experienced before, in a nutshell, foreign. Completely foreign.
There is a meditation exercise I have done a few times where you pretend you are an alien landing on earth and seeing everything on this planet for the first time. The idea is to let go of stories or assumptions about anything and everything you might encounter, so you might experience its essence, its energy, its consciousness.
These past four days, my first four days here in Shanghai have felt like that exercise, but intensified exponentially.
No one here speaks English, somehow this is the one area where I was dreaming. I thought I would be fine being completely unprepared linguistically, yeah, not so much.
If not for our driver, Shane, who speaks a fare amount of English we would be completely, what's the word, oh yeah SCREWED! The shopping process here is a world away from what I am accustomed to. Small shops are more the norm, cash only, and shop help is there to help you find the item you need, but when they are speaking Mandarin and all I can do is smile, nod and shrug my shoulders, we are getting nowhere fast. Shane has been a lifesaver, and we have come away relatively unscathed, but for my part feeling like a bit of a jackass, not to mention completely helpless.
The immigrant experience so far has been exciting and enlivening, but also shocking and frightening and we (myself and my family) have all the perks, we are highly privileged immigrants, but I still feel like the proverbial huddled masses.
Everyone should go through this at some point and perhaps we would find ourselves much more compassionate to newcomers in our country. Believe me no one would go through this without the kind of help and support I have unless they really needed to. They would not go through such fear and frustration, such upheaval, just to be a nuisance or to inconvenience others.
I have been treated with kindness and respect by all the people I have met here so far, even though I barely can say two words in their language. I am grateful for their compassion. Compassion, respect, and love truly do make the world go around. That is a global language, we all can speak. With that we make a home where ever we might end up, that is the ground to root into. I am full of great hope in the midst of that rooting process. Homecoming in Shanghai, China.