Last night, I had dinner with a group that was visiting my city from Atlanta. Though I only passingly knew two of them prior to this week, I had a great time with the entire group. As always, it is fun to see Asia through the eyes of those who visit here for the first time.
We had a meal, I showed them around some of the city, helped communicate with their hotel regarding their check out plans this morning, bid them farewell, and then drove back to my apartment 45 minutes away.
On the drive back, things seemed to be in slow motion as I thought about and processed my life here. I live in a massive Asian mega-city. There are more than 2,000 buildings over 20 stories high. I can’t even imagine how many buildings over 5 stories high there are here.
As I drove, it hit me that I had been driving all day in this city (which dwarfs New York in many ways) and I had not looked at a map all day. Not once.
Bottom line. . . I have been here a long, long time. This morning, more thoughts along this line have flooded me. So here are four indicators I have lived in Asia a long, long time.
- I will go entire days without speaking English – This is one of those things I would not have dreamed of when I was a kid. Now, I don’t think twice about it. By no means am I some super-linguist. However, I can more than comfortably get by doing life over here speaking the local language. The language was such an intimidating mystery when I first arrived, but now it is fairly comfortable. I love this aspect of living overseas for a long time!
- My taste buds have changed – Bottom line, I am an American, with American tastes and American preferences. However, something shifted about 3-4 years ago. I stopped thinking about American food ALL the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss Chick-fil-A and BBQ. I kill America breakfasts any chance I have. However, now I am fine with going weeks on end with little to no “western food”. As a matter of fact, when I am traveling outside of this country, I sincerely miss the food and long for it. . . even when I am in America! I would have NEVER predicted this. My first summer here while I was in college, I lost 25 pounds in 5 weeks (and I only weighed 159 lbs. to start). The intestinal assault was insurmountable for me at the time. I didn’t like the food and it would destroy me physically. My Mom and sisters literally wept when they first saw me walking off the plane that summer, because I looked like a returning POW or an emaciated refugee. Not pretty. My first stay here of 3 years, I returned to the States again so skinny that I was ashamed. I was like a shy dog after a haircut. Doctors were concerned. Even the elders at my church told me that if I couldn’t keep weight on, I needed to move back to the States. I had dipped down into the low 140s. It was rough. Not the case anymore. I LOVE the food here. I never get sick of it. Nothing makes me sick. Now, my problem is gaining weight!
- There are 8 Asian mega-cities which I know well – I never dreamed I would be able to give restaurant advice to friends traveling in Bangkok, touring tips for colleagues going to Seoul, know some of the best coffee houses in Hong Kong, and speak intelligibly on the places to stay in various sections of Beijing, but I do. I have a more thorough understanding of eight Asian mega-cities than I do of all but Atlanta in America. I’ve been in Asia a long, long time!
- I have long-time local friends here – Two days ago I met an Asian friend I have now known for 10 years. I love the guy. He is a bank executive and we meet bi-weekly for lunch and to just hang out. Great times. Yesterday I had breakfast with a local friend I first met four years ago. We shared about life, his first year of marriage, and future plans and desires. Great time. This afternoon I will meet a local friend I first met in 2007. He is now a professor at a local university. Looking forward to the time. I just sent an email to a different local friend I first met in 1999. Though we now live in different cities, we talk at least every other week. I see him when I travel back to my old city of residence each month for meetings. You get my point. . . I have great local Asian friends now that span many years over here.
This final point, long-time local friends, is an incredible honor and joy in the longevity of my living in this area of the world. This aspect is definitely my personal highlight!
Have a great weekend. . .