The summer I turned eight years old I spent a day at the beach. It was supposed to be fun—a family day with my sister, mom, dad, cousins, aunt, and uncle.
I want to say there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sand was clean and white, and it flicked up behind our heels as we ran. I wish I could tell you that grit stuck to our legs, and we had enough sand throughout our shoes and clothes to build our own beach when we got back home. But I don’t remember any of that.
Maybe I was sweating and sticky and eager to cool off in the water. Maybe I lingered on the beach like I usually do now—only dipping in when my body can’t take the heat, and only long enough to take the edge off before getting out and sitting on the sidelines again.
I don’t remember that, either.
I remember the moments immediately leading up to what happened.
Several months ago I took my children to a coffee shop and treated them to a smoothie. One cup for the two of them to share would be plenty . . . at least I thought so at the time.
Their faces tell the story:
Any time we move into a new country, a part of us will change. We have to. We learn a new language (or at least pieces of one) or other tricks to enable communication. We learn cultural taboos and make sure we don’t commit them. We embrace the differences when we can. When we can’t embrace them, we endure them and try to be positive.
Perhaps the biggest culture shock in coming to China was not the language (having lived in Korea, I was accustomed to getting by with minimal language) or the air quality (I was prepared for the worst and ended up being pleasantly surprised).
The most difficult challenge was the seemingly flippant regard for others’ safety and well-being—mostly on the road. In a previous post, I discussed the morbid Chinese reaction to car-pedestrian accidents. You can read that here.
The family settling in for the thirteen hour flight to the United States.
When I graduated from high school, my mom gave me Dr. Seuss’s beloved book Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, and, boy, did I believe it!
I had so many things I wanted to do with my life, so many goals I wanted to achieve. I was going to make a difference. By golly, I’d change lives.
As a seventeen year old child, having just graduated valedictorian, I read Dr. Seuss’s famous book and had no doubt I’d reach my destination—I was going to move mountains. How those mountains would move, well, I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew, just knew I could do it.