Elena Garcia is an average American, blonde hair green eyed, from San Francisco, living with her significant other Garrett and her dog Frankie. In any other aspect, she and I do not have much in common. I do not know who her favorite singer is or what her mother’s maiden name is, but despite my lack of knowledge about her, I feel like she and I are already very close friends.
Elena Garcia’s blog, “An American Girl in China”, details Elena’s personal one year “Adventure in Shanghai”. She started her journey on November 2008, where she begins by packing away her life San Francisco to move to Shanghai, China for an entire year, and ended her journey on January 2010, where she is back in the United States and lots of experience in Chinese society under her belt. Elena’s initial perspective of China was naïve, and it is her initial naivety that made me read her blog. At the same time, however, Elena not only talks about her experiences with Chinese people and Chinese society but also about her travels. She posts just as much about her own life as she does about her experiences with Chinese people—the post about rock climbing in the Shanghai Indoor Stadium is preceded by her ranting about people who walk slowly with a newspaper or cell phone in the morning.
Much like Elena, I went on a journey to China this past summer. And like Elena, I went to Shanghai. I was a “foreigner”, although I did not entirely look the part. The luxury Elena had in China was that she had an excuse for being different (she was Caucasian), as I did not (I am Chinese). This did not stop us, however, from having similar experiences and sharing the same feelings towards those experiences. One thing in particular stood out to me, in her post “No Autographs Please!” dated June 10, 2009.
"People in China stare… they stare at us, they stare at each other, they stare at random objects, they just stare. It’s not rude, it’s not polite, and it’s not anything, they just stare! … But for some reason it really got under my skin. I’ve settled so much already during my stay here. I mean I put up with the spitting, the staring, the pushing and shoving, I feel like I have reached my limit. Any more unwarranted attention, disrespect or cultural nuances and I might lose it.”
Had I read this over the summer, I may have cried. This, what she colloquially describes, was exactly what I felt during my travels in the same city of Suzhou. In this one post, Elena pinpoints one of the main reasons I picked my blog topic—how can I be Chinese, yet not understand why Chinese people do certain things? How can I be Chinese, but through my American upbringing, I feel angry and offended by Chinese people?
Another I identified with very much was “All Sorts of Goodness”. Elena writes:
"People squat on the floor to pee, they make magnificent noises when they are hocking up a loogie, and they flick their boogers onto the shoes of passer bys."
Elena’s relativity makes her blog like an older sister to my blog.
Unfortunately, it has been more than a year since Elena has posted on the blog. She returned to the United States in January 2010, and so her “Adventures in Shanghai” is over. Elena’s blog was purely for personal use, and therefore never gained too much attention. For her, this blog was a way of documenting her experience of being a foreigner in a foreign country, to share with family and friends, who are probably very curious as to her well-being. Although we have similar topics, my blog will feature an Asian American view of the same experiences—because believe me, Chinese Americans and Caucasians are treated very differently in Chinese society. My blog will not be something I will share with family and friends to update them about my life, but rather an evaluation of who I am, and how I will try finding my identity, when I do not identify with any particular society at all.