Katie Wong: My Chengdu

Authors: Katie Wong (China Daily)


Arriving was only a small part of a dream come true; now Chengdu is in my veins, a part of my identity and thoroughly incorporated into the heritage I cherish.
Growing up half-Chinese in Texas, I was never really aware of my heritage, save for an early ability to wield chopsticks and a propensity for rice. The first time I really understood that China might play an important part in my life and identity was in high school, when we read the works of several Chinese authors. I found myself intrigued with this very different culture, so distinct from what I saw and experienced daily, yet possessed of something familiar and enticing.
In 2007 I visited China for the first time, and was overwhelmed by how quickly I fell in love with the natural beauty, history, art and pace of life. My travels that summer brought out emotions in me I'd never experienced. I longed to walk down village streets, and to ride on the subways and trains that made transportation within cities, to see everything and everyone, to experience the different vistas and cultures that were contained within China. The more I traveled, the more it became clear: I couldn't wait for an opportunity to live among these people who looked like me and still were so different.
It was 2011 that I made it back, choosing to move to Chengdu. My first impressions of the city have stayed with me, and still hold true. Chengdu is a surprisingly green city, full of warm, helpful, welcoming people, delicious food, a long history and endless treasures, if only you're willing to explore a little.
In coming to Chengdu, I experienced an odd phenomenon: fitting in. If I was with Chinese friends, no one on the street looked twice at me, unlike my more foreign looking friends. If I went shopping for vegetables, sellers were surprised that my Chinese was so bad. For the first time in my life I could be a chameleon, able to fit into the crowd with no one the wiser unless I spoke, and yet still capable of standing out, of being different when I wanted. This had never been an option for me before.
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