One Saturday morning in Spring 2005, about 10 minutes before crawling from bed, I heard it — a screeching sound akin to scratching a blackboard with your fingernails, but magnified more than 100 times over. Yes, just a little good old welding and drilling in the name of redecorating yet another apartment in my neighborhood, a process that happened seven days a week, from morning to evening, for as long as two to three months.
Sounds like this used to bring out my worst side (a side that, regretfully, I’d even bring outdoors on occasion to shout something I’d regret later).
But not this time. I yawned, rolled over, and then slept the rest of that 10 minutes (with a clear conscience). And when I did finally rise, I didn’t even have any residual hangover of rage when I finally rose from bed.
What a milestone — but it wasn’t the only one.
Earlier that week, I squeezed into the hard seat section of a train from Hangzhou to Shanghai — knee-deep in impatient, crying children, roaring conversations, incessant cellphone ringtones, and secondhand smoke from a guy dragging on a cigarette (despite being against regulations). And me? I lost myself in the latest news from the Southern Weekend, too engrossed to worry about the din, or even my dwindling legroom.
In a way, I owed some of this inner change to China — a place a colleague of mine once called “the ideal classroom for learning patience.”
The learning, now, that’s the hard part. I know I didn’t learn my patience for a LONG time (and, even as I write it, I’m still learning it). I definitely spent a lot of energy reacting in China. Reacting to the crowds, apathy about rules and regulations, noise pollution, those greasy guys standing along the streets hooting and hollering “hello” like you were a porn star on the catwalk, and — yes — the near-death experiences while bicycling through the streets. I’ve had my share of “I hate China” days, rants, and shameful, shameful moments.
But at some point, I began to rethink my perspective. I realized what rankled me pretty much fell under the mei banfa (there’s nothing you can do about it) category (not an easy realization for a girl who has been known to be a control freak at times). That meant I could either go with the flow, or go home.
I chose to stay, and change. And while it definitely wasn’t always easy, it made all the difference — even turning that once ear-splitting redecoration next door into something I learned to live with, peacefully.
(Well, at least, most of the time. I am, after all, still learning. 😉 )
Has living in China (or other countries abroad) helped you learn patience?