Zài jiàn China – Beijing 2013

Ni hao guys and girls!

So my month in China has come to an end. It has been an amazing experience. I’ve gone through an array of emotions and thoughts while I’ve been out here. I’ve learnt so much, but I am ready to come home loool.20130724-001856.jpg

My China experience began before I left for Beijing at Heathrow airport. It started with the unforgettable support I received financially from all those who donated to fund my one month trip. A total of £2,685 was donated, way above my target of £1,500. A massive thank you to everyone who supported me, especially my late cousin Ify who told me I would go to China!

Loads of people have been asking me ‘How was China?’. It’s a question that I feel terrible for answering with just one sentence, because to be quite honest, one sentence and a few pictures cannot qualify my experience. My general response is:

China is great…great in everything, demographically, population, sky scrapers, technology and the list goes on.

China is WEIRD. Culturally challenging, in terms of living there as a foreigner or ‘alien’ as they call us. It was hard being black to be honest. People will stop and stare at you. At first it was flattering, but then it did get a tad tiresome. People will take pictures of you without asking OR try and be sly. Their culture is very different, but I guess I assumed or expected that for a country that is so in touch with the whole world through business, essentially providing us with all our ‘made in china’ goods, that they wouldn’t be so shocked to see foreigners. That’s a problem created by their government, shielding them from the rest of the world. Wetin man go do?

The Chinese repeatedly violated personal space. It’s a normal thing for them to be millimetres away from each other. This was very weird for me, I like my space as I’m sure most of us do. One day on the subway to work, a the lady had LOADS of space to stand yet she came to rub my skin and I had to tell her to stop touching me. So yeah t’was challenge, and I had my innovative methods of how to escape the unbearable close proximity…safety pins (ask me later).

Working in China has been a great experience. *Sprinkles gold dust onto my CV.*

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Learning about Chinese business etiquette (video explaining Guanxi and Mianzi) and communicating with my colleagues despite the verbal language barrier. China has taught me or reinforced the fact that communication goes beyond verbal discourse. There are endless amounts of universal gestures, which even Chinese natives understand. I will miss my colleagues at Astronaut China, they have been lovely to me and played a major part in making me feel comfortable. However, I will NOT miss the subway journeys to work, especially transferring from line 10 to line 1 at Gumao.

China has taught me to be OPEN MINDED to different cultures. It is very easy to get stuck in western ways, but I think this is the beginning for me. I will travel a lot more by God’s grace, and I look forward to learning about different cultures.

Being a student of Psychology with an strong interest in mental health and the cross cultural differences and similarities, it was humbling and fulfilling for me to visit the Beijing Huling Community Centre for Intellectual disabilities to volunteer for the weekend. One thing I picked up immediately is that they don’t refer the individuals at the centre a mentally ill.

20130724-001921.jpgEven the name of the centre omits the word mental.

Now when I asked the manager of the centre why that is, he informed me about the stigma attached to mental illness in China. Which is no surprise and is the same case for many non-western countries. 83 million people suffer from mental illness in China…that is the entire population of the UK plus 20 million. A lot of people, yet very few get the help they need. The manager told me that there are only 10 mental health community centres in the whole of Beijing, the capital of China, with a population 20 million in the city. So with regards to mental health in our non-western countries, the situation is pretty dire and overlooked. Before I go into one my psychology rants, let me just round up by saying that it has certainly stirred up a desire for me to do more. Even though mental health isn’t my main career interest, I believe there is a lot that our young generation of psychologist can do, seeing as the older ones aren’t making a move on their zimmer frames loool. All the same, I had a great time volunteering and dancing with them.

Coming to China for this internship has provided me with the wonderful opportunity to connect with other interns from all over the world. So easy to gel with like-minded people. I’ll miss some of them and will definitely visit them in their own countries in the near future.20130724-002027.jpg

So its bye bye from me Beijing and Hello London in few more hours.

Pray for journey mercies please.

God bless you!

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