Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Different Kind of Guanxi

Last night, Scott and I decided to try out the "Western Food" restaurant located on the third floor of the student cafeteria. The so-called "Western" menu items looked a little strange, so I ordered fried rice instead. As we were struggling to order in Chinese, a very nice English-speaking Chinese woman came to our rescue and also invited us to eat with her and her husband.

We chatted a little bit in Chinese but mostly in English. She's an English teacher at Tianjin Foreign Studies University, and he's a Ph.D. student in economics. It turns out that Tianhai Xie, my Chinese teacher at FSU, was her classmate. She taught in Houston for 9 months, and her husband will study in Australia next year. They both have traveled quite a bit around the eastern United States, so we chatted about general impressions like "New York City has a lot of people" and "Washington, D.C. is very historical." After dinner, we parted ways.

We have a world map in our classroom here at TFSU, and I look at the distance between Florida and Tianjin a lot. Little encounters like the one last night remind me that no matter where I am in the world, people are just people. For example, a random meeting between two young Chinese and two young Americans- in a third floor cafeteria... at Tianjin Foreign Studies University... in China- turned into a pleasant conversation about a mutual acquaintance and shared impressions of American cities. And to me, that's really comforting.

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