I've been reading the Chinese/English book I received from one of the Chinese students at Nankai University. At times I read it for over and hour in attempts to beef up my Chinese as much as possible.
I realize that Chinese is such an important part of myself. After taking a boat ride with this charming young Chinese girl and her family, I realize how much I can relate to the Chinese culture just by being able to understand what she's saying. It seems like the more and more I speak in Chinese to people, I start to understand more and more of who I am. It was extremely touching for this young girl to tell me "Why are you pretending to be a foreigner? You are not a foreigner" in Chinese. That might sound strange, but it made me actually feel like I have tapped into my heritage. Being able to joke around and have a conversation with her in Chinese was fantastic, on top of being able to understand what she was saying about everyone else in the group. Although my Chinese is still in an infant stage, I'm definitely going to step it up.
That experience with the young girl was during a boat tour of Suzhou. That was interesting to see how the people of China live along the rivers edge. A slightly unromantically scene was drawn out during the boat tour. In America, living along a body of water is usually quite beautiful and pleasant, but here it kind of smelled awful and looked a bit run down. An interesting contrast between the two. This is also a horrible generalization as I have only seen river front housing in one area in China.