My initial response to arriving in china was strange. The airports themselves seem very western and familiar but at the same time, the signs in a language you don’t understand brings you to the fact that you are not in the US anymore. However, outside the airport, there is no mistaking that this is China. My initial response to the city was one of amazement, I have never experienced a city this big before and the sights and sounds are so different from home. It is hard to say where I am mentally in my separation process. Currently, my program has been doing orientation so they have us easing into shanghai life. So in that way we have not quite separated completely. However, I would say the separation process has been more or less how I anticipated. I expected the process to feel very fast as I left the US but as I got to my destination the act of separation would seem to slow down as you begin to have thoughts about your home.
Communitas is defined in the workshops as a group of people who are going through the same liminal stage together. So far the communitas I am in has been very helpful. We have become very close in a short amount of time and have become good friends. On the one hand being able to pool all our limited knowledge of the language has helped us get around as a whole but also it can take away from the total experience if we stay together as the group of foreigners. Probably my biggest influence within the group is the fact that I am a fairly shy person, this weakness causes me to stick back in the group and just go with the flow which while sometimes nice take away from the overall experience. I am however fairly independent so while right now I am using the group while I still don’t know the city or how to get around I will at some point start exploring on my own. It is hard to say how all the other people are acting within our communitas for the most part however I would say like myself we are all somewhat relying on the group as a whole to find our way around.
Challenges within the liminal state are roadblocks that make one question the reason they are doing this and came make some people within the stage fail to complete it. I have had one major challenge to overcome, on my flight over here I actually caught some minor food poisoning from the food on my plane. This actually did cause me to think why am I doing this and going here. However, I knew that it had nothing truly to do with where I am and afterward I made it through. Beyond that, there has not been much that made me question why I am here.
I have a few ways to try and invite the unknown and cultivate a network of close-knit and supportive friends. The first main way is joining clubs and organizations. I will also be trying to explore around me and meet and learn from people around me. I have also turned off most cellular data for my phone so if I need to find something I will have to find and ask someone. Like Slimbach said, “If we learn to actively participate in our host culture without rejecting or romanticizing it, out global learning can enter a phase of emotional, mental, and physical adaptation and integration.” (p164) basically, if you try and get yourself to actually become part of the host culture and not just an outside observer you can learn a lot from it.
The image I chose for describing my trip is my view from the pearl tower here in Shanghai. It shows the city sprawling out as far as the eye can see. And that is very much like how I feel being here. I am here but I have only seen a fraction of Shanghai.