Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I've Changed

I remember sitting in downtown Seattle wondering how would moving to Africa change me. I didn't know that I would stay away for four years, moving to China after Africa. I didn't know that a volunteer could do Peace Corps for more than two years, and I just recently heard of a guy who has committed to serving six years in PC, went from Africa, to China, back to Africa. The longer I stay away, the more I wonder how does living abroad change a person?

Hanging out in Fremont then at Gasworks Park under the sun watching the planes land and take off of Lake Union with the Seattle skyline as the backdrop, I realized that Africa and China has changed me. I feel safe and peaceful within the isolated silence of one. I have spent four years learning to be by myself. I am not so good around people anymore. I am a bit quiet and quite socially awkward. I am used to sitting for hours, just waiting, taking paper out and sketching whatever is around me. I don't seek people or community for company but find ways to amuse myself.

Walking home from the store, I realized that Africa and China has changed me. I no longer rush. I remember writing a blog post while living in Seattle about why don't people run from place to place:

Sunday, February 04, 2001

Why do we walk everywhere? Why don't we run?

Yesterday I was running everywhere. Running to catch a bus that just passed me but was stopping a block away. Running down blocks and blocks trying to make sure I caught the 12:14 am bus.

I think we should run everywhere instead of walking. It is much more fun and you get more exercise.

I used to pride myself for being a fast walker. After living in the heat of Africa, I am like why? Why walk fast when it is so hot? Slow and steady is the mantra. In China, I do get frustrated by being stuck behind the hundreds of slow walkers. Because there are so many people on the sidewalks, walkers tend to just mosey on. Everyone follows the same pace and don't have to worry about dodging in and out of the crowds. I must have picked up the habit of walking slower. Today while walking back and forth from the supermarket, I realized that I walk at a peaceful pace.

My taste buds have also changed. I have always had a sweet tooth, but for some reason I am not eating sweets when the stores and coffee shops and cake shops are full of them. Instead I drink coffee, black. I eat salty food like a bagel and lox. I don't feel a strong urge to eat a sweet. I find it a bit strange and feel kind of happy that no longer do I feel the need to drink coffee with a doughnut, to stop by the ice cream parlor, to eat chocolate. It is a bit weird though coz in China, there are many instances when I feel an urge to eat a sweet. How does one explain that?

The last thing I have noticed is my inability to spend money. I am angry that at the supermarket you have to have a card or else everything will cost twice as much. I don't go to the movie theater just to watch a popular sci-fi action movie because the ticket is $10. I probably would pay the $10 if it was a unique film that might be hard to find again. I prefer to bike rather than spend $4 on a round trip public bus ticket. I don't mind spending a lot of money on a special dinner or on books, but everything else just seems really expensive.

I've changed over the four years. My taste buds have changed. My spending habits too. I have become quieter somehow, more of a loner, and I don't rush or try to be time efficient. I just be and know that no matter what, everything will work out. I wonder how long it takes to change back to the American I once was.

1 comment:

cody said...

Change is inevitable. Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people