Name : Katherine or Katya
Country of Origin : USA
Occupation : Educator
Years in China : 11
How did your journey in China begin?
That is not as easy a question as it seems.
— In hindsight, “big” is a relative term, since we considered them big, but most of them had a population smaller than Xiamen does now. Still, I was always drawn to cities.
* Was it my first time in Chinatown in New York City? Where I bought a black qipao and a Canto-pop album by Leslie Cheung (张国荣)?
— I had no clue at the time, wearing it for choir & band performances, as well as in my senior pictures, that I’d end up here. And the album? Didn’t know what language it was until years later, but I still hear songs from it in restaurants from time to time.
* Was it when I first studied Mandarin?
— That was at the University of Hull in the UK during my undergraduate degree. They offered Passport Languages, where you had a once-a-week evening class. Only 4 of the 20+ people who started the class finished the year: Me, a French-Born Chinese guy, and 2 British sisters (who spoke Cantonese as a heritage language, and wanted to learn Mandarin, plus reading & writing). I still try to find that teacher online to thank her and tell her where I ended up.
——那时。我正在英国赫尔大学读本科。学校有开“语言通关”课，一周一次，都在晚间上课。刚开始有 20 多人上这门课，最后只有 4 人坚持到期末：我，一个在法国出生的中国人，还有两个英国姐妹（她们会说粤语，想学习普通话，以及阅读和写作）。我仍在尝试从网上搜寻当年的老师，感谢她，告诉她我来中国了。
* Was it when I knew for certain I would be coming to China and started preparing?
— First, investigating the cities I could find schools in and settling on Xiamen. How? Through unscientific polling of every Chinese acquaintance I had in the USA. Every time Xiamen was mentioned, I’d hear: Oh, what a lovely city.” Second, practicing Mandarin again with a language partner, after 8 years of doing nothing but write 谢谢 from time to time.
——首先，我筛选出了有大学的城市，最终确定厦门。我是怎么做的？我收集了认识的每一位美国华人的意见。每次提到厦门，我都会听到：“哇，多么有活力的城市啊。”其次，我要和语伴再次练习普通话，因为这 8 年来我啥也没做，只是时不时练习写汉字“谢谢”。
* Was it the first day I stepped foot in China?
— That was Shanghai, August 1, 2010. I went to the Shanghai Museum that afternoon, loved it, although was convinced the nice young man following me around to “practice English” was actually doing a tea scam. He wasn’t, he truly just wanted to practice and discovered people were less likely to run away in museums. The second day, I spent at the World Expo, almost fainting in the queue, helping many students with their summer English homework, and gaining one brilliant pen pal.
——2010 年 8 月 1 日，那时我在上海。那天下午我去了上海博物馆，我很喜欢这个博物馆。我遇到了一个年轻人，一直跟着我，说是要“练习英语”，但我觉得他是茶馆派来的“茶托儿”。实际上他并不是“茶托儿”，他真的只是想练习英语，他还发现人们在博物馆里跑不了（所以我不得不跟他对话）。第二天，我在世博会，排队的时候差点晕过去，我还帮很多学生完成暑期英语作业，结识了一位才华横溢的笔友。
* Was it when I arrived in Xiamen, my home ever since?
— August 5, 2010. It was originally a temporary commitment, in case I hadn’t liked China. Here I am writing this, more than a decade later, from the same city. Clearly, I liked it.
— 2010 年 8 月 5 日，我本来只是临时租住在厦门，因为我担心不喜欢中国。十多年后，我在同一个城市写下这篇文章。显然，我爱中国。
* Was it when I made the decision to extend the temporary stay to a long-term one?
— If you’d asked me in the first year or two, I’d have said I’d move on in 2-3 years. But here I am…
So, maybe the answer is in the numbers?
— 2 jobs – or –2 local cats rescued – or – 2 surgeries – or – 2 passports
— 5 years of calligraphy lessons
— 8 apartments
— 16 email newsletters (in those early years)
— 23 provincial and provincial administrative regions visited
— 37 entry stamps
— 42, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything (if only we knew the question)
— Dozens of tourist sites hiked/photographed/toured
— 100s of cities visited
— 300-something photos of pandas taken
——换了 2 份工作，救了 2 只当地的猫，做了 2 次手术，持有 2 本护照
——住了 8 间公寓
——写了 16 份电子邮件通讯（头几年）
——走访 23 个省、省级行政区
——盖了 37 个入境印章
——访问了 100 多座城市
——拍摄了 300 多张熊猫照片
So, I don’t really know when or how it began, exactly, or when it will end. But it has been a wonderful journey, and very different than where I grew up. As I tell my students (and the occasional inquisitive taxi driver): Iowa (my home state) is roughly the same size as Fujian. But the entire state has a population less than Xiamen (although when I moved here years ago, the populations were about the same). Which of my numbers will keep going up?
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