Just a Small Town Girl…

In The Art of Travel Fall 2015, Shanghai, Transformed by Miranda BurnhamLeave a Comment

As I walked through the mud between two construction sites on either side of the road, almost getting hit by three motorcyclists, one car, and seven people I realized something: sometimes, I f**king hate Shanghai. Sometimes Shanghai is smelly, sometimes it is too inconvenient, sometimes it is too big and too loud and sometimes I want spaghetti to actually taste like spaghetti instead of fermented tomatoes, plastic, and Chinese noodles.

But about four seconds afterward I had another, more meaningful realization: it’s okay, and more than that, it’s expected. While I had come to China expecting to love every second of my experience, feeling incredibly lucky to be so far away, aiming to distance myself from the small-town American girl I was back home, I realized that’s impossible. No matter where I go, I will always be American. Even if I give up my citizenship and live in a different country for the rest of my life, my kids may not be American, but I still will be. I cannot run away from who I am or what defines me, and my realization was that I don’t have to.

There are things about America that I absolutely love and hope to never give up. I love Christmas, big, huge, giant, amazing, family-filled bright-lights Christmas. I also love so much the convenience of living in the States, and being in a culture in which I feel completely comfortable. America will be the only place in which I feel 100% comfortable, where I don’t have to think about what I’m supposed to do or how I’m supposed to behave for even one second.

I’ve realized while in China, I still sometimes want Christmas or still sometimes want spaghetti. I’ve realized that I am no less “cultured” if I sometimes act like a Westerner, because I am one. Furthermore, being who I am doesn’t stop me from doing certain things that Shanghainese people do on the reg. I eat street food with the rest of them ordering all my meals in Chinese, buy my shoes from the fake market after bargaining like crazy, and squish into the subway almost every day. I deftly avoid steamrollers and cars and scooters and people, can spit at quite a distance now, and am perfectly capable of peeing in a squatting toilet.

Living here for four months has been an experience I will remember for the rest of my life, and it is amazing to know that small-town Miranda fits into the Shanghai life quite nicely…. (most of the time)!

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