I Am An American And I Am Also Chinese

“Was the lion a male or female?” I sat around the table at the Chinese restaurant here in America and asked this to my parents, as the dish was being brought out. All they did was laugh. I couldn’t understand why, as the direct Chinese translation of this dish on the menu was “lion’s head”. As a 6 year old, I wondered where the hair on the face and neck from the lion would go, if it was a male lion. Turns out, the dish was actually just meatballs. A few months later, I traveled to Beijing for the first time since I moved to America to visit family. I woke up the next morning to cars honking every 5 seconds and the sound of people almost yelling at each other down the street. Instead of my typical breakfast of toast and butter, eaten with hands, I found the table set with rice porridge and steamed buns, eaten with chopsticks.

Despite my Chinese nationality, I always considered myself an American. While my Chinese heritage was around me in my everyday life, I wasn’t familiar with it. I grew up in America, and by the time I had traveled to China, I had lived in the US for 5 years. As a result, I figured that life in China would be completely different than my life in America. During my first week in China, while adjusting to the time change, I took note of all the differences. In China, almost all cars are stick shift. In China, moped bicycles are on every street. In China, Uber and Lyft are nothing compared to regular taxis. In China, I, the pedestrian, yielded to cars. Carrying toilet paper was a necessity if I couldn’t wait until I got home. Two weeks flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to go home.

Fast forward to 2016. I was 14 now, and it was time to go back. I hadn’t been back in these 8 years, so I was curious to see what was similar and what was different from the last time I was in Beijing. I flew back, and almost everything was the same. The difference this time, however, was that I found a new love for the different foods there were. The thin, crispy skin of a Peking duck was my favorite. I had it pretty much every week that I was there. The white rice porridge, in addition, was a great breakfast dish. The sticky, thick rice made me warm in the morning before leaving for the day’s adventure. For weeks, I lived as a foreigner in a country 6,289 miles from home.

I am an American, and I love burgers, pigs in a blanket, and Amazon. I am also Chinese, fluent in the language and capable of using chopsticks. Both my American-ness and Chinese-ness are a part me, a part of my identity. I never debate between the 2 of which is better. I am proud to be both.

13 January 2020
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