30 years river east, 30 years river west (day 1 of 9)

IMG_1253China Trip – Day 1 of 9

The journey was long but surprisingly pleasant. The entertainment options were abundant on board, rendering some of my own preparations useless. When the plane was lifting off from LAX, I finally breathed in deeply and started to feel that I was on vacation.

As I was traveling alone, somehow I had struck up several conversations with strangers. Naturally, one common theme was the comparison between today’s Chinese living with that of the overseas-Chinese’s. For instance, one guy told me the friend he visited in the U.S. was not happy, complaining that he had worked so hard for a better life for all these years, but he would have been better off if he hadn’t left China at all, evidenced by the people with lesser social standings when he left China were having more success than him in the present days.

I said to him that “ten years river east, ten years river west”, the Chinese proverb for the Western equivalent of “the pendulum swings both ways”. It literally means the world sometimes behaves like a river that flows east for 30 years and then west for the next 30. Due to my rusty Chinese, I had shortened the years from 30 to 10, but he got my points nevertheless.

“If he chooses not to be happy, he would find reasons to be unhappy under different circumstances.” I said to my follow passenger, “Does fresh air or the joy of learning a different culture and language count for something?”

He agreed wholeheartedly.

These type of “what if” complains I have heard often, and I myself had wondered the same in the back of my mind. Only after I had given the above consultation to the stranger, I realized the change that had occurred within me. As my advice was not only true to my ears, it was also true to my heart. And I know now that I have chosen well, for I chose to be happy.

Arthur’s Note: Written on 03/13/13, posted on 03/23/13.

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