It’s funny how sometimes you come across something at one point in your life and shrug it off without really giving it a second thought. Then, several years later, you stumble across the same thing and that item — a movie, article, book or even a factoid — all of a sudden means something completely different.
That happened to me this week. Derrick, my boyfriend, mentioned a 2012 episode of This American Life entitled “Americans in China”, and how I might identify with some of the stories. I’m an avid TAL listener and I remember when this episode popped up on iTunes. I remember listening to it, probably while cleaning my room, and didn’t even make it all the way through. I remember finding it not as interesting as I had anticipated.
This week I gave it a second listen. I sat down in my apartment one night after work and listened to it as a lay in bed. It’s a good episode and well-worth listening to (especially if you’ve visited or lived in China for any amount of time). I’ve been in China for more than a week now so I won’t pretend I have the full experience of a true expat. I enjoyed listening to their experiences, but what I found most interesting is their thoughts and reflections on living in China: how they see themselves fitting into this culture (and when they don’t) and the exchanges they have with people back home.
People have often commented on how brave or adventurous it is to go and live in China. So many people, the language, the food…Communism! (Some would argue it’s Capitalistic Communism).
So far I’ve found Beijing to be culturally rich and filled with lots of things to explore, not to mention some very friendly and interesting people. It’s a busy city like any, yet there exist true moral dilemmas for expats who have made Beijing their home: government controlled businesses and economic sectors, human rights issues, and censorship. The TAL episode features expats trying to explore the balance between their appreciation for a city they love and the political realities they grew up knowing were wrong and unjust.
I have no special insight or additional input into expat life, but the episode engages in interesting dialogue. It’s worth a listen.