Being a Chinese American in China has some sweet perks. I blend in, am treated like a regular citizen (no one takes pictures of me), and people expect me to speak the language. The last option might not seem like a perk, but I’m here to learn Chinese right? Just today I shocked a Beiwai student by completely speaking English to her. Turns out I was shocked too as she was an English major! We had a great conversation and I learned a lot about what it’s like to grow up in China. I’m always surprised to hear anyone in Beijing speak English fluently (or even at all) as everyone speaks Chinese everyday!
However, despite some people telling me how I have it easy being a majority, I still face discrimination. I thought that maybe in China, I wouldn’t face any discrimination like I do in the U.S., but despite where I am, discrimination is everywhere.
Yunnan is a beautiful place with a vibrant culture and I loved my time there. But going through the border patrol was an experience I won't forget. As one of my friends explained, Chinese government employees tend to treat foreigners better and are not as welcoming toward anyone who appears to be of Chinese descent. Knowing this, I had two experiences with border patrol officers that each ended in a drastically different way.
My very first experience with border patrol was late at night on the tour bus. I was about to fall asleep listening to my music when I saw some of the soldiers outside just patrolling around the grounds. One worker came onto the bus, scanned everyone and stopped at me. He looked at me and started yelling in Chinese. I looked around confused, not knowing what was going on. Thankfully, two girls who were in advanced Chinese understood what he said and told me he wanted my phone. I handed him my phone and he proceeded to look through it- for what I couldn’t tell you. After about 30 seconds of being on edge and not knowing what would happen next (would I get my phone back or would I have to get off the bus?) I got my phone back. Then he scanned the bus again and left without talking to anyone else. I was really shocked by what had happened, and luckily a bunch of people from the program approached me to make sure I was alright.
The second time I interacted with an officer was during the day, so it was less intimidating but still nerve-wracking. What usually happened at each stop was that my Chinese teacher got off the bus with our passports and explained we were all American citizens. They checked our visas and we were able to continue our journey. This time, I could see the officer outside holding my passport and saying something to my teacher. I prepared myself for the worst- to be quizzed about my American citizenship as I was originally a Chinese citizen. A few minutes went by, then the tour guide called my name and I got off the bus to talk to the officer. The first thing he asked me was if I was an ABC (American born Chinese). I explained I was adopted and have been living in the U.S. for 20 years with my parents. He then told me that he was an ABC raised in California, and turned out to be a very nice man. I was just so afraid that I would be taken away I was half listening to his life story.
All in all, I am happy to be back in Beijing and to not have to go through security checkpoints. It was quite an experience to be singled out just based on my appearance and to be questioned about my background. In these types of situations, I am happy to have supportive friends. I’m now aware how terrifying it might be for someone traveling to another country to be stopped and questioned. I am very fortunate to have an American passport, as I can only imagine how even more difficult it must be not to have the right documents. It was a learning experience, and I certainly do not take anything for granted, especially my American passport.
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<p>Hey everyone! I’m a junior and I currently attend Trinity University, a small school in San Antonio, Texas. I consider myself a sociologist in training, and I’m interested in learning and experiencing new cultures! This blog depicts my experiences in China, specifically Beijing, China’s capital city, a long way from home! Hope you enjoy and feel free to comment!</p>