On the Spring Festival and Missing China

Katie McGee
February 8, 2016

Hey everyone!

To all of the people who are continuing to follow my adventures, welcome back!

To anyone who is reading my blog for the first time, welcome! Just as some background information, my spring semester on IES Abroad Shanghai will be my third semester abroad. Previously, I spent the last summer in Taiwan, and my fall semester in Beijing, on both programs participating in intensive language sectors. This spring, I will be turning my academic focus from Mandarin to more of a global business outlook. Between my fall and spring semesters, I returned home to the states for a month, in order to spend the holidays with my family.

Anyways, I would like to start off this blog post with a hearty 春節快樂!恭喜發財!(Chūnjié kuàilè! Gōngxǐ fācái! - Happy spring festival! Wishing you good luck in the new year!) 

Today is what we Americans call Chinese New Year, although this name is limiting, as many Southeast Asian countries (such as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, etc) also celebrate the holiday. The Mandarin name for the holiday, 春節 (Chūnjié), translates literally to Spring Festival. As this is the biggest holiday in China, and also marks a week to my return to China, I have already begun to feel a bit nostalgic for the country. As a result, I thought I would take this time to talk about some things I miss (and am looking forward to) about China, as well as some things that I will find myself missing about the US.

Things I miss about China:

1. The food. Food from different cultures have different tastes (duh). I find that American food tends to be very heavy, using lots of dairy and starches. On the other hand, Chinese food tends to be more oily, garlicky, and salty. Don't get me wrong; I love both American and Chinese foods, but I am finding that American food tends to make me feel more lethargic after eating, which I didn't feel so much when eating Chinese food. I also really miss all of the 辣椒醬 (làjiāo jiàng - hot chili sauce) that is used in Chinese food. It is super spicy, but also very delicious. Another aspect about food in China is that it would be weird to order just one dish. Chinese meals are all about sharing, so when eating either at home or at a restaurant, you always have multiple dishes, some vegetable, some meat, that would be shared amongst everyone, and a bowl of rice (which we definitely don't eat enough of here in the US). Everyone shares the food, so you get to eat a little bit of lots of different dishes, which in my opinion is much more exciting than everyone ordering their own food!

2. The language. Although being surrounded by a language that is not natural to you, and is, for the most part, very difficult to understand can be overwhelming at times, I think it's also kind of fun. For example, practicing can be as easy as challenging yourself to understanding the conversation the people at the next table over are having. And to be honest, using someone else's conversation as listening practice feels much less like eavesdropping than does accidentally overhearing a conversation in English, especially since I'm likely inferring 80% of their conversation anyways.

3. My friends. This one won't truly be solved when I return to China, as I will be going to a new place, but I am excited to meet new people and make new friends. I've found that the types of people I have become friends with on study abroad are oftentimes very different than the types of people I usually befriend. This is mostly because of the very limited number of people in the group, along with cultural differences between the US and China, but I think that it's great, because it means that I'm learning how to work outside of my comfort zone when it comes to people, a skill that can only help me in the future.

On the other hand, things I will miss about the US:

1. The food. Like I mentioned before, Chinese food doesn't involve much dairy. Those of you who have read my previous blogs can attest to the fact that I really really like cheese, and unfortunately, cheese is pretty hard to come by in China. I have been enjoying them while I have been home, but will definitely miss cheese and milk when I return to China. (Milk is available in China; however, it tends to be unrefrigerated at the time of purchase, which weirds me out a bit.)

2. The language. Because let's be real. Being surrounded by people who can speak your native language is wonderfully easy.

3. Paperback books. In the short time I have been home, I have remembered how nice paperback books are. It really is unfortunate that they're so inconvenient to travel with.

4. My friends and family. It has been nice to be around friends and family again. These are people whom I am very comfortable with, and it's always a bit disconcerting going to a new place and having to start from scratch and make new friends all over again. Also, my cat is wonderful and I will miss him a lot.

In conclusion, I will miss things when I leave, but I am also super excited to be back in China. I hope everyone has a wonderful Spring festival, and is lucky enough to be hit by lucky cabbage during your local lion dances

Until next time!

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Katie McGee

<p>Hello! My name is Katie McGee, and I am a junior at the University of Puget Sound, located in Tacoma, WA. I am a Chinese major with a Japanese minor and a Global Development Studies emphasis. I am a Chinese adoptee, and although my parents did their best to expose me to Chinese culture as a child, I grew up in a community with very little diversity. I have devoted this year to traveling East Asia (South Korea, Taiwan, Mainland China, and Japan) and improving my Chinese along the way. I have already learned so much during my travels, but continue to look forward to what adventures lay ahead.</p>

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