Time for another life update! First I am going to rant a bit about nationalism in the States and in China. Second, I am going to talk about my birthday (aka it was nice but sad!). Finally, I am going to talk about some fun things I have done over the past couple of weeks! Keeping the heavy stuff at the beginning of the blog.
In China it is currently 国庆节, or Golden Week! A week long national holiday to celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It is basically like China’s Independence Day, except it is a whole week. During this time, people are at their most patriotic. The amount of Chinese flags I have seen has made my head spin. The week before the vacation, Chinese flags mysteriously appeared outside every apartment in my neighborhood. As this week is all about loving country, I have been having a lot of thoughts about patriotism in China versus patriotism in the United States. I have been noticing a trend of perceiving Chinese patriotism as something negative? When I see flags go up overnight I am more likely to think of the ways that the Chinese government controls information flows and censors dissent in order to maintain high levels of support. In addition, for me it represents the ways that nationalism is often such a dangerous and volatile force.
However, as I was thinking critically about patriotism in China, I began to think about what the United States looks like around the Fourth of July! Seemingly overnight, flags go up in front of every business and home, banks all of a sudden are offering tootsie rolls with the stars and stripes, and there is a feeling that to critique the state around this time is to be “anti-American.” Regardless of all the horrible things that the United States government does and the bloody process that went into the creation of America, around the Fourth, we are required to feel proud to be American. We celebrate this idea of American exceptionalism, this myth of the freedom and privilege of being an American. And you don’t need to look hard to find the negative ways that politicians use nationalism (e.g. Make America Great Again). So basically, I am really interested in exploring more the ways that I am critical of China and figuring out if those critiques are valid or if they come from a place of American exceptionalism. As someone who studies China, I feel like a lot of critiques of China are made by people who have failed to be self-reflective. It is not to say that we shouldn’t be critical, but more to say that we also need to look at our own systems.
I think it would be a mistake to not mention the emotions and feelings that the ongoing Kavanaugh hearings have caused among me and my friends. To just say it: BELIEVE WOMEN! I STAND WITH DR. BLASEY FORD! Being abroad while such important things are happening at home have a way of making me feel really helpless and just frustrated. I wish I could be partaking in protests, calling SUSAN COLLINS and other senators, and just generally being with people who can understand the emotions I am feeling. At a time where I am in a position of a representative of the United States (both in my role as a Fulbright Scholar, and in my simply being American abroad), it is saddening to have to describe the situation to my Chinese friends and teachers. On the other hand, it has been a bit of a relief to be separated from things that are happening. I remember feeling this way in the wake of the 2016 election, where when I studied abroad for that Spring Semester, I was able to really recharge in a way that I wasn’t able to in the U.S. So yes, those are just some things that have been really affecting my daily life, but also that give me passion and drive to changed this imperfect system we have.
Onto lighter things… Ok, so I just turned 23! For anyone reading this blog who has spent a birthday abroad, you can probably understand how I am feeling. For all the traveling I have been lucky enough to do, I have always been able to spend major holidays and birthdays with my family. This is the first year that I have not been able to see my mom or dad on my birthday. With that being said, I think that the emotions I am feeling right now are really natural and just have to do with the big move. Even without my family and close friends, my new friends in Beijing were so kind and wonderful and made me feel very special. We ended up eating at a very nice hot pot restaurant, where we ate delicious food and chatted until late. My roommates Hannah and Jacob even bought me a cake that had my name on it (Chinese name of course)! Also included in this picture is a cup of tapioca that my new friend bought me when she found out that tapioca pudding is my favorite dessert!
Finally, the last time I was in China, my program set me up with a host family to spend holidays with. Over the course of the semester, I became quite close with my host parents, and was so happy to reconnect with them over this time that I am in Beijing. Since the last time I saw them, they have moved houses and have gained a second grandchild! I immediately fell in love with the new baby, and was so glad to see how much the oldest has grown! My “Zhongguo Mama” (or Chinese mama), as she asks us to call her, is such an amazing woman and really makes me feel like I have family in Beijing. In the below pictures, my roommate Hannah and I are posing in front of the amazing meal she made for us, in one picture with Zhongguo mama and one picture with her daughter. The whole time we were at their house, the baby called me auntie, and continued to try to feed me green beans. So, that will be all for now! Thanks for tuning in!