The other day, Matthew and I got a chance to go to downtown Chicago.
This thrilled me to no end, for when I was younger I would visit my Auntie in Chicago and just marvel at the sheer hugeness of that amazing city. In my mind, there was absolutely nothing in the world that could match it - it was Just. That. Amazing.
This visit was different, though. We started getting close to downtown Chicago and I was just amazed at how... small it looks to me now. I mean - tiny. At one point during this visit, while in downtown Chicago, I could actually crane my neck and simultaneously see down the streets to the end of the buildings in all directions - north, south, east and west.
This FLOORED me. Chengdu is so huge - the last number I think I heard was a that it has a population of something like 17 million people - that Chicago is literally microscopic in comparison.
~ ~ ~
I will say that I have found while on this R&R that it is nearly impossible for Americans who have never visited a mainland Chinese city in real life to conceptualize what it is really like to live there. Americans cannot fathom the size, the scope, or the experience.
Also, Americans tend to have this very warped view of what normal people are like in China. Probably because the economy in the U.S. is for crap right now, but almost every American I come into contact with seems to believe in their hearts and souls that every Chinese person is either a businessperson ready to financially overtake (or purchase!) our country, a scientist/mathematician ready to take away every good job there is in our country, or a soldier ready to conquer our country. There really is this palpable feeling here in America that China is about to buy the United States lock, stock and barrel and/or overtake us in every single way (science, jobs, politically, economically, militarily, etc.). There really is a fear here.
Between a fear of our country's economic decline and the idea that every single individual in China is smarter than we are, or harder working than we are, or just in general a better thinker, worker, etc. than we are and the fact that not a whole lot of Americans can even fathom what daily life in China is actually like...it's just really hard for me to help my family or friends to understand what it's like to live in China day-to-day and what normal Chinese folks are like.
~ ~ ~
For a while there in Chengdu I volunteered locally (because EFMs are not allowed to work off post because we have no bilateral work agreement with China) and worked side by side with several Chinese young ladies (roughly 21-25 years old or so). When we got a chance, we all tried to talk about our countries and how they are similar or different and it was really funny.
I told them about how, as high school/college students, American students always felt compared to Chinese students and told that we were dumber, or lazier, etc. than Chinese students. The Chinese girls laughed hilariously at this and told me that Chinese high school/college students are always told that they aren't as creative as American students and how American students can think out of the box and they cannot and how that's bad. And we laughed and laughed at the idea that we're all compared to each other and always feel that we've somehow come up lacking in comparison.
Isn't that the way it always is? In our lives, don't we always feel compared to others, and don't we always feel that we come up lacking? It's silly, isn't it?
I think so, too.