Hello everyone, I’m Mea Andrews and I’m an American living and working in Beijing. I just moved here from Chongqing, and I had been living there since 2017. I came to China for the same reasons I think most of expatriates can relate to: I wanted to explore a new culture, meet new kinds of people, and broaden my world view. I actually had a fourth, more selfish reason for coming to China, and that was to better my writing by experiencing new words, places, and people.
大家好，我叫 Mea Andrews，是一个在北京生活和工作的美国人。2017 年，我从重庆搬到北京，之后就一直住在这里。我来到中国的原因和大多数外国人是一样的：我想探寻新文化，认识新朋友，拓宽我的世界观。实际上，我来中国还有第四个理由，出于私心，那就是感受新文字，游览新地方，交往新伙伴，提升我的写作水平。
In Chongqing I encountered so many new things: the Sichuan pepper, hotpot, chuanchuan, mahua (love me some mahua), incredible mountain city views that rival Hong Kong, I could go on. Even when I was in a situation that felt uncomfortable, like the very nice lady who took me aside to tell me my organs were different than Chinese organs, or when people would take my photo without asking on the subway or in the streets, it was easy to get over because there was always something unique and new to see or experience.
I had not intended to make China my home, in fact, I hadn’t planned on staying more than one year. By the end of my first contract, I felt like I hadn’t done or seen enough, so I stayed on telling myself I’d leave after three years. By the time I was close to hitting the three year mark I had started to advanced my career and had met people I would consider good friends and, in one case, a second family. There was no way I could just leave all of these great people behind, so I stayed another year…and then COVID hit and right in the middle of that, I got married.
I was never the little kid who dreamed of their wedding, if anything I wanted to learn how to wield a broadsword and go on epic monster fighting adventures! Yet here I was, in a foreign country, getting married, right as a global pandemic was happening all around us. Of course, marriage is never easy, but it has an extra twist when it includes what can be exasperating cultural differences and trying to get acquainted with a new family. I’m from a relatively unstable family background, so of course there were concerns that as a foreigner, I would run away back to my country, or that I wouldn’t have much in terms of family values and would simply choose divorce if times got tough. There were actually a lot of things said that I wonder if other mixed nationality couples experience, but despite that, my husband’s immediate family was incredibly welcoming of me.
We felt as a newly married couple we had a decision to make: where were we going to live? To settle down? We thought about his hometown in Henan and being closer to his parents, to moving closer to his sisters in the outskirts of Chongqing, about getting him a green card and moving back to the states. We had to take a moment and list what our goals are, what we want from a city we live in, what we could afford. In the end, we decided to take a risk and move to Beijing. Neither of us had lived in a tier one city before and both of us had places we wanted to visit and goals we could reach while living in Beijing, however neither of us believe Beijing will be our last stop.
My husband, a great guy from Henan, and I have decided that we want to spend our time together traveling more. As he says, ‘We want to live a nomadic lifestyle.’ Therefore, our home in China now is wherever we choose to make it together. Chongqing is a beautiful city nestled in the mountains, but after seeing many of the Chongqing hotspots, we chose to move on to Beijing for a bit to travel around some of the historical places and take stock of where we would like to go next. Our life in China looks very much open-ended, we know we want to go to Guilin, Guangzhou, Xian, and so many other places in the near future.
Where I’m from in Georgia (though technically I grew up shuffling around the majority of the southern states), many people never have the opportunity to travel abroad, much less live in another country for a long period of time. China has given me the ability to grow in ways I had not expected and will be my home for years to come. I suspect China will always hold a special place in my heart.