JUMP! staff member Liz Heller reflects on her home away from home.

A theme we talk about often at JUMP is appreciation. If you’ve ever worked in a facilitation team with JUMP, as a staff member or volunteer in the our office, or have been a participant in one of our programs, you’ll know that we often set aside time for what we call appreciation ceremonies or appreciation circles. We emphasize the importance of taking time to appreciate our peers and colleagues for the hard work that they do and the special people they are.

With the same word, “appreciation,” running through my mind, I have been reflecting recently on what I appreciate about living in China and the familiarity of the city, people, and language that I’ve spent the past couple of years experiencing. We sometimes get so comfortable in our environments that we forget how unfamiliar the rest of the world can be.

I have spent the past four days in Chiang Mai, Thailand with friends, soaking in the very hot weather, eating tons of amazing Northern Thai cuisine, and trying to explore as much of the town as possible. I also had the opportunity to meet and catch up with some JUMPers from our partner organization Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures (CMRCA). I’m glad I finally got to see Chiang Mai after hearing so many great things over the years. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Thai massages, elephant riding and mango eating, but I have also thought constantly about the familiarities of Beijing that I crave.

On this trip I have been reminded, as I am each time I visit a new country, that I appreciate my life in China: speaking the language, understanding cultural interactions and body language, knowing the city’s districts and major street names, and even the milder climate. It sometimes takes leaving to realize the things you like about a place.

I won’t forget about this trip to Thailand, and in a couple of months when I am in graduate school, I will miss the accessibility of so many beautiful places in Asia. I will think about the people I appreciate in Beijing, and I will also be reminded of the place that I grew to call home.

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