As I was walking down Italian Street last night (the shopping square on campus) I said hello to a number of students and foreign faculty. I realized I am very much at home here. I don’t always need a student to go with me to the store because I have learned where I like to shop and how to communicate with the cashiers. We ran into a couple of foreign faculties members I have known since I first came in 2011. They have a daughter who is going to college in the states that I feel like I watched grow up. She was 12 when I first came and she helped me with my laundry. Now she is off to college. It is like I have another life here in China. I have watched children being born and grow up here and own the campus. A little girl that was just a baby when I first came to China named Hannah is now a 5 year old riding her bike with training wheels all around the coffee shop downstairs.
I have really grown accustomed to the music, smells, noises, people, and guidelines. There are so many things that I feel comfortable with I am actually surprised. I guess this 5th visit has opened my eyes to how Chinese I have become. My kids tell me that but I am now realizing there is some truth to it.
The things I love most and the reasons I come back are the students and their wonderful excitement, gratitude, and eagerness to learn. I feel so free to be self-expressed in the classroom because I feel so loved by them. I am meeting most of them for the first time because they are first-year students. They treat me with such kindness and love you would think we are old friends.
Maybe that is why I feel so at home. Even if I don’t know all the people I see I feel like I do. I am truly finding my second home is now China. I never thought I would say such a thing. This is my other family.