the Story of "Ouyang Laowai"

Share Your Experience

  Q: Why did you come to Chengdu? First time here?

  Amelie: I came to Chengdu to experience a different part of the world. I find Asia intriguing. It is my first time in Chengdu, it has been a wonderful experience and I feel I have gained a new understanding by observing this city. 

  Maria: I studied Chinese language and culture at university in Milan and even though the language was hard I was really fascinated by it. Now, after my graduation, I finally had the chance to come here for the first time to live the real Chinese life and improve my language skills.

  James: The first time I came to Chengdu was during the summer of 2011. I had my passport taken in Xining City in Qinghai Province on the day before (it was eventually returned to me after many difficulties). And the whole trip began with a foreboding, desperate and muggy weekend, but transformed into wonderful vacation when I met some unique Americans and celebrated the absurdity of an American holiday away from home together.

  Jimmy: I first came to Chengdu in 2002, as part of a three-month visit to Southwestern China. I arrived from Kangding after a few weeks on the road in small towns and it was so nice to be able to enjoy what a big city offers again. But it was also time to extend my visa. This was a blessing in disguise for me,for it forced me to hang out in Chengdu with nothing to do for seven days but by the end of that week, I had decided that if I ever come to live in China, this is where I want to be.

  Q: Please Share a unique experience in Chengdu/China.

  Amelie: What I find unique from my stay in Chengdu is how this experience has helped my horizons broaden and intellect grow. It has allowed me to evolve and be closer to the person I want to be. This simply has been an exciting adventure to see another side of the world, almost like a dream.

  Maria: I think that my biggest luck here in Chengdu was meeting amazing people and because of that I was able to live a lot of meaningful experiences. First meeting a Chinese girl named Lulù. We met by chance and after that we became inseparable. She's a little bit crazybut very sweet and fun and when we were together it was always like an adventure. When I was in Italy I always planned my days strictly, but with her, it was impossible to know what could happen in the next second.

  We met other amazing people like Ellen and her husband. This was actually funny because we met this woman at the supermarket and ten minutes later we were at her house which is like a museum full of fantastic stuff. They know so much about culture, history, literature and much more. To me, they are almost legends, and I feel so lucky that I had the chance to talk with them. One day Ellen took Lulu and me to visit one of her friends. This woman played Guqin (a traditional Chinese musical instrument) at her house for us.It was a magical moment I would never forget. I think that this trip has changed me, and it was really interesting to face the tremendous cultural differences between Italy and China.

  Jimmy: When I was traveling around Hunan in 2012, I met a woman who happened to be working as a teacher in Chengdu. So when I came to Chengdu this year, she invited me to give a presentation on my travels to her class, as part of their Children's Day activities. I'd never lectured in Chinese before, and certainly not to a bunch of first graders, but it was such a blast! I loved it!

  Q: What is your deepest impression of Chengdu?

  Maria: When I just arrived here I was impressed by the tall buildings and the big roads but what I didn't expect was to see so few foreigners on the streets. Now after almost three months I have really fallen in love with Chengdu, especially because it retains its own strong Chinese identity even though it is highly international.

  James: At the very beginning, the deepest impression I had of Chengdu were the smells of garlic, chillies and Sichuanese peppercorns that permeate the streets with their pungent odor everywhere in the city in the evenings. Apart from the fact that my clothes still smells like the hot pot restaurant I went to last June, the most lasting impression comes from the people I befriended: Chengdu's finest Ultimate Frisbee team–the Feipandas who knew how to have fun each Saturday at Southwest University for Nationalities;the owners of the Henan noodle shop down the road who prepared countless bowls of wontons for me and even asked me to share some western recipes with them; the old ladies dancing in front of my block each morning, no matter how heavy the fog was; and my coworkers and students who fought for the admission to elite US colleges for the last two years.

  Jimmy: I found out in surprise that the bus routes designed by the urban planners can take you to anywhere you want to go, no matter how remote the place is. On the bus, as long as there is a senior citizen standing, there is always someone offering his/her seat.

  Q: What do/will you miss most after you are gone?

  Amelie: I will miss the distance of being on the other side of the world. I love being far away to venture and explore, to experience something special, and I hanker for evolving as an independent being.

  Maria: I will miss the food (not the spicy one), the tranquil temples, the big parks and the street slangs of Sichuan dialect. What I will miss the most are the people I met here especially Lulù.

  James: Needless to say, New York City has countless options of Chinese food, however, it isn't that easy to find authentic Sichuan cuisine. Flushing, Queens, which is next door to my grandparents' house, has become very Chinese, and I have heard there are a few good places to eat spicy hotpot,but they are never as delicious as those in Sichuan. I also particularly find myself missing the small things that we overlook when lulled into routine and normalcy: Like hearing the PA say, "We are arriving at Sichuan Gymnasium" on Metro Line 1 when I did not go to the company by bike; learning Chinese every day when I ordered food; getting the chance to learn about one more person. 

  Jimmy:The other day I ordered "Sichuan-flavored fish fillet" at a restaurant in America, I was extremely disappointed, for it was not "Sichuan flavor" at all, it was simply spicy. And of course I miss my friends from Chengdu. Everyone is always so friendly and I've met such great people, that I would love to hang out with for years to come, which is what pains me the most when I had to leave. 

  Q: What do you think of the visitors to the cities? Do you think you can have effects on a strange city, or be affected? (the mixed culture and lifestyle may happen)

  Amelie: It is quite easy for me to get immersed in such culture and lifestyles. The interesting part lies in the differences. If you want, exchange and integration can make culture and lifestyle much more interesting.

  Maria: I think that being a passing traveler is so awesome that itcan effect both people of the city and the city itself. I believe that a group of travelers can add something different to the normal routine of the city. For me, mixed culture and lifestyle is always a good thing. Intercultural places are my favorite because I can share and learn so much.

  James: If travelers have open minds, are willing to learn and listen, and be pushed outside of their comfort zone, they tend to be more sensitive to the rhythm of Chengdu and know more about what the city has to offer, and conversely, what they can offer the city. There are people and families who arrive in Chengdu with the expectation to fabricate surroundings and lifestyles to match their previous ones. I think that this sort of cultural exchange is out of place, and can create unforeseen social tensions. It is important for every traveler to humbly experience life and adventures, and be critical and aware of their own blind spots.

  Jimmy: I must admit that I am easily enthralled by cities. Sometimes you visit a city which can interact with you, and sometimes the cities you pass through do nothing to you and you just move on. But under the right circumstances, a city can capture your heart.


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