Friday, 16 June 2017

Interview with Sajidah - Wanderer of China

When I first met Sajidah, we were only 17. Both of us were traveling to China at that time for the same program, except that I was in the competing group and she was one of the back-up crew. Growing up in Pontian, Johor, really exposed herself to community that are quite similar to mine - the people were not so keen in traveling. Even when they do, those are the rich that have planned for fancy holiday or family time abroad.

When my friends and I finally decided we wanted to go to Xi'an, her name popped into my head like a light bulb. She's been staying there for more than four years now, she must have some good stories she could share with us. Hence, this triggered my desire to interview her for more.

Me : So, why are you here? How did everything start?

"I'm here for college, it's my fourth year now. I came here on 2013 and I was on scholarship program. At that time, I was very much interested with Public Administration or Management. So, this school, Xi'an Jiao Tong University (西安交通大学) was one of the best school people around recommended to me. But, of course, I didn't just fly directly after my final year of high school."

"As you could see, I graduated from Private High School, with Chinese as its main literacy, and it was very hard to apply for any scholarship back in Malaysia when you are not from the government listed school. Same thing happened to my sister, Amirah. She had worse case comparing to mine, because the government department didn't recognize her graduation certificate and in the end, she had to pay for college fee in China by herself. Luckily, she managed to obtain another scholarship there after few semesters."

"As for me, I got a recommendation from my teacher to apply for private scholarship issued by Dongzhong (董总). I spent around a year teaching in my high school, and at the same time applied for this. The process was supposed to be more complicated, but due to some recommendation, I managed to obtain it within three months."

Me : So, it's been quite some time now, what have you seen so far? What are the good stuffs about Xi'an?

"A very standard advice I'd give to any visitors that asked me this - first, you've got to visit these nearby places first, Bell Tower (钟楼), Drum Tower (鼓楼) and Muslim Street (回民街). Next, it'd be Terracotta Army Museum (兵马俑). Lastly, the cafes near Giant Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔). Only when you've done with all this, seek for the best local stuff. Of course, this is just personal suggestion."

"What do I mean by the best local stuff? One of it is the food, but not the kind of food that they serve in the hotel or high-scale cafeteria, more like average daily dishes that locals eat (家常菜). You would normally find it in a cheap restaurant or hawker center."

"For example, I would suggest you to try their glass noodles (凉皮) or biang biang noodles. And also if you Google up the top ten funny or interesting stuff about Xi'an,you would normally see these few things. One of it is, if you go down the streets or alley around this city, you will see this particular type of small restaurant that serves all sort of noodles, to customers who dine in by squatting on the road side. Not much of a pleasant sight to see, but it's interesting to learn that it's a norm for them."

"Another cute thing is how the ladies here wear hijab without covering ears. It looks kind of like their signature here in Shanxi or Xi'an. And one last thing I'd like to point out is how huge their naan is. It's literally the size of a farmer's hat, or a big pot."

"But of course, those are just the tourism part. If you really wonder what this place has given to me (not just Xi'an, but China in general)? I'd say a lot. I've come to learn loads of stuff that changed my perspective in viewing everything. I would say you were crazy if you ever thought China wasn't much as a country."

Me : Can I say you are more mature now after traveling to this country? How did that happen?

"Yes, absolutely. One thing that everyone knows about studying abroad is that you will be left alone in a city with very limited resources. In my case, I didn't have any problem with communication, as I speak fluent Mandarin. But the thing I truly lacked of was friends for support. In my first year here, I had only one Malaysian friend whom taking the same major. As for the rest of the Malaysians, they were 45 minutes apart in different campus. It's really cool when you think about it, that how this hardship actually led to a new discovery for me."

"People need to understand that when you are abroad for school or work, the locals normally wouldn't look forward to become friends with you, unless you have something valuable that they can learn from. I believe this implies on any places in the world. Even I, myself wouldn't approach a foreigner in my hometown for no reason. Hence, this thought forced me to get out from my comfort zone and make myself appealing to people in school, by joining more social activities or groups. I needed friends, but not like desperately."

"When it comes to free time, I figured I should go wander around more, with a hope to come in contact with new things. I tried car-pulling, like Uber, and sat in the same cars with strangers. It was fun to eavesdrop these people talking about their work and life. Sometimes I could literally learn something from them. Definitely not the kind of stuff that you learn fro school."

"Also there is one more thing I've learned, I believe you too could relate - patience. The mainland Chinese are notorious to the world for the way they behave. They tend to rush things up, even when those things can be managed with patience. So, slowly, I have accepted the culture here (but not by becoming one of them). I literally would let these people go when they cut queue or argue over trivial things. It wasn't worthy of my time."

CLICK LINK FOR PART 2 : Interview with Sajidah (Part 2)

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