So, last week I spent a few days visiting my grandparents in El Paso, TX. It’s one of my favorite places in the world, probably because it’s kind of like TWO of my favorite places in the world. This is because El Paso reminds me A LOT of the farm in Jilin China. Why?
It is literally ON the border. El Paso is almost like half of a city, inconveniently located where a national border runs through it. From many places in the city, you can see the Rio Grande and the enormous flag that sits just across the river.
Hunchun isn’t quite that close to the border, but you could see the Russian border (a line through the trees and a guard tower) from anywhere on the farm) and the road to town ran along the Tumen river, which formed the border with North Korea.
The regions are heavily influenced by the culture from across the border. Immigration (legal, illegal, and refugees) has led to a significant percentage of the population coming from/identifying with the other country. The other language is widely known, widely used, and widely accepted; it’s almost as easy to get by in the other language as in the official language of the country. Their food is easily available and pretty authentic – score!
There are mountains. Lots of them, but not too big. And they fade into the distance . . . I love it.
Also, I only really know old people in both places.
So, I was thinking about this as I left El Paso and headed west to Tempe, Los Angeles, and eventually Stanford. And as I crossed the border into California, I again had the sense that I was back in China. Probably part of the reason was that going through a “customs” of sort at the border made me feel like I was entering a foreign country.
Also, there are the stricter laws. My Oklahoma friends complain about how you can’t carry a gun with a clip containing more than 10 rounds; in China you can’t have guns at all. There just seems to be a lot more government control here, which reminds me of China.
And there are a ton of Asians here. I overheard at least 4 conversations in Chinese while at IKEA, and the congregation at Mass on Sunday was strikingly Chinese.
The palm trees, proximity of both ocean and mountains, and the availability of fresh and local fruit reminds me specifically of China. Stanford even has a Palm Drive like XiaDa’s West Gate!
I really appreciate the similarities. It’s good to be someplace familiar : )