Xiao Hei

by Teja Henry (United States of America)

A leap into the unknown China


Ni hao! Imagine graduating from high school and going with your best friend and her family to the People's Republic of China. Typically, when one mentions they've been to China people automatically assume you mean a major tourist destination like Shanghai or Beijing. Where I ended up was actually quite the opposite. Ya'an. That's the name of the small town where I would be spending the next 6 weeks of my life. I found myself surrounded by the unknown. I had no idea where I was on the map, why I kept getting strange looks from locals, or what was on the daily agenda. Now, many people are paralyzed by the unknown, but there was something so enthralling about the concept of not having a rigid schedule to adhere to on a daily basis. All I had to do was wake up in the morning and ensure I made it in the car on time, or so I thought. Then I met the rest of her family. Imagine being the only black person in a rural area, well that was me. When I arrived at my friend's family house in China I was greeted with curious stares. Finally, the grandmother broke the silence when she loudly stated "Xiao Hei." The room became even more silent and uncomfortable after the uttering of those words. I had no idea what she meant by that statement and thought it best if I didn't ask. Everyone except grandma went out that evening to explore the town. The town was so charming. Small restaurants and mom and pop shops lined the streets of what would be considered the downtown area. I noticed as I passed by that nearly everyone was on their phone talking pictures