China, round 2

I’m back, after two years I’m back in Tianjin. Man its good to be here, but things are different and in a lot of ways.
One of the most obvious changes is my environment. Buildings have popped up everywhere, construction is underway all around the school. The small 2 story 20 room dorm I stayed in 2 years ago is being torn down as I write this to make room for a 12 story 400 student building. The foundation of a skyscraper can be seen from our 9th floor classroom, and every day the crane is busy. The scaffolding of a gigantic hotel takes up 3 blocks closer to downtown, but you can’t see any of this if you ride the brand new subway. The small shopping street where I used to buy cheap tshirts and bootleg movies is now a market underground because they built a building on top of it. I scored some nice addidas sunglasses for about 5$ there the other day.

Then there is Beijing. A huge city, beautiful, clean and dirty at the same time. Saturday it rained water weighed down with soot, then Sunday the sun shone so bright Florida AND California should be jealous. As far as change, I cannot attest to anything more than that it has taken place. It probably changed with each trip I made 2 years ago, and with all the money being poured into the city for the Olympics change is everywhere. I know that next time I go back to Beijing, maybe in a couple weeks, I will most definitely be bringing my skateboard to hit up the smooth sidewalks, marble ledges and crazy structures.

As far as how things have changed personally, I’m not sure I could fit it all on this webpage. I’ll try to give a glimpse, and expand upon it as the trip continues.

One amazing event was meeting my uncle, Yip. I had met him briefly once 4 years ago in Holland, but this time Nathan and I really got to meet him. He is a close friend of my late grandmother in Holland. He grew up there from 12 years old and originally comes from Hong Kong. After running a succesful restaurant business in the Netherlands he has sold them and moved to Beijing recently to pursue other business opportunities. When we arrived in Beijing International Aiport on Friday June 22nd, he picked us up. He took us to his (very nice) appartment to freshen up. Soon afterwards we had a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. We had fish cooked with a pepper that numbs your mouth, shrimp exquisitely wrapped in a way I can’t describe, delicious beef and several other dishes I don’t know the name of. We ate with Yip’s sister and friends, most of which spoke Dutch. It was quite an experience to speak mostly Dutch on my first day in China.

What we spoke about was also very interesting. I felt totally at home with my uncle, and I really liked some of the ideas he made clear to me. One piece of advice I am trying to appreciate is to always give 100% to the situation at hand. He said he used to be thinking about 5 things at once wherever he was at, trying to plan and manage his business. This cost him a lot in terms of the time he spent with others and the activities he was busy with. If one instead focuses all of their energy on the present situation they can recieve much more from it, in terms of enjoyment or value while the stress of other obligations and thought processes melt away. This has become very valuable advice in the context of being RA, while I’m trying to take classes and enjoy my time in China I am also constantly supposed to be helping other students and arranging things for them. This makes it very easy to drift off in thought trying to plan or account for things while I should be pulling all the enjoyment I can from a good dinner with new friends, or absorbing all the chinese I can from class in the morning.
Another valuable point came out of a discussion about leadership. Yip has been a manager of companies as well as the owner of a busy restaurant, so he should know a thing or two about leadership. When I asked him if he had some tips about leadership he made a very clear observation about what leadership actually is. It isn’t a personality trait, and it isn’t something you strive for. Leadership is a byproduct of giving all your energy to solving problems and providing for a group of people. If instead of worrying about leading people, you take action to solve their problems and give them the resources they need to accomplish what they want, you end up leading in the end. A leadership personality is different, these kind of people can’t be wrong because they are expected to lead. Everybody is wrong sometimes, so a leadership personality will not only lead people to success, but also to dissaster.
This made me feel a lot more comfortable with a lot of aspects of what I want to do with my life. I don’t really consider myself a leader or a person with a leadership personality, but what I do like doing is solving problems, and solving them for lots of people at once. So if leadership is not a prerequisite for this, but rather a byproduct I have much more chance of being successful.

That about sums up my first day or two and the thoughts that came up. We are already almost done with our 2nd week, so there is still lots more to cover. As RA and student, as well as trying to meet and learn more and more, I stay pretty busy. I went an ungodly 5 days without internet this last week, and things might not get any better in that respect.
So I hope everyone is having a good summer, and till the next time I get on the web!

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