Saturday, October 28, 2006



There was a student who asked in her free-writing journal why foreigners so often travel so far.

When I was in Uzkekistan visiting my older brother, his friend expressed a similar thought. Now that friend has also traveled to other countries, but at that time he also thought frequent distant travels are pretty strange. My mother told him, "The foreigners you know are only those who do like to travel." There are many foreigners who rarely travel far.

But there is also a real difference. China is also changing, but the concept of hometown is still very important here. Last week a student club was discussing foreign cultures. There were three foreigners present: a Somali regularly enrolled student, a Yemeni exchange student, and me. They asked each of us foreigners what our hometown was like, and we were all pretty much unable to answer. The Somali was actually born in Saudi Arabia, and has never seen Somalia. The Yemeni lives in England and only rarely goes to Yemen. I also told them I don't have a hometown. This sort of thing is hard for a Chinese person to understand. When a couple marries, the often go to live together with the husbands parents, and if they don't live with them, they shouldn't live very far away. University students don't live with their parents, and some of them must take a bus for five or six hours to return home, but every summer and winter holiday they all return home, and during the autumn one-week holiday, the majority also return home. The majority have also never left Zhejiang province. For foreigners to come to China for a year or more and not see their families, to the Chinese way of thinking seems quite strange.

Mexicans are really like that too. In Mexico, university students return home every day or every week. Riding a bus for over an hour each way every day or five or six hours every weekend is not unusual. However men often pass half the year without seeing their families, because they must travel extremely far to look for work.

The cultures of different cultures each have their own customs, which are a little different, but their hearts are much alike. Although I don't have a hometown, and none of the people I know live in Santa Barbara or Colombia, I still the miss the places I have lived, in addition to the people I have known. The college students of every country, exchange students, foreign teachers, and migrant workers all get homesick.


slowlane said...

It makes me feel smart that I read a blog that has Chinese characters on it.