Before I left America, people always asked me, “what scares you most about going to China?” Images from my previous travels would appear in my mind. My brothers getting sick after eating mystery meat. My parents staying up all night to help them, then getting sick themselves. The long car and plane rides with my brothers hunched over plastic bags. On every single trip I’ve taken with my family, everyone—except me—gets food poisoning. I think I escaped it because I’m vegetarian and don’t eat the “mystery meats.” Regardless, the thought of having food poisoning in a foreign country terrified me. I watched my family go through it so many times I was worried about it happening to me. If I got food poisoning in China, there would be no family members to help me get better. I’d be on my own… or so I thought. I went to bed one November night feeling amazing. My classes that day went very well, and I even had free time to go out to eat with friends. I was only asleep for a few hours before I woke up with an intense pain in my stomach. I didn’t feel nauseous, but I stood up and barely made it to my garbage can before my dinner started reappearing. My worst fear about living in China had come true—I had food poisoning. I hoped I would get all the food out of my system before morning came as I needed to teach class. It never stopped though. I couldn’t leave the bathroom. I messaged the substitute coordinator that I was sick, and he was luckily able to find a sub for all my classes that day. It was a huge relief to not have to worry about my work, but instead concentrate on getting better. My parents even stayed up all night in America, messaging me about how I was feeling.
My food poisoning was so bad I couldn’t drink water or eat ice cubes without throwing it back up. I messaged some friend group chats about what was going on. It was overwhelming how many people responded and wanted to help me. I thought I would have to go through it alone, but all the teachers at Sias came together to give me what I needed. Some people brought over flowers, massive packages of saltine crackers, Gatorade, toilet paper, and garbage bags. My friends subbed my classes for two days. Some people even sat with me as I was sick, encouraging me that it wouldn’t last forever.
One lady dropped off a big bowl of homemade soup. It was touching to think that my friends took time out of their own crazy work days to help me for no reason other than friendship. This is the type of community I’ve always wanted—a family who has your back no matter what you are going through. I wasn’t able to eat or drink anything for three days, so I went to the hospital, which was another one of my fears. I had a Chinese friend come with me to translate, a teacher who helped me walk as I was too weak to go on my own, and Sias’s English speaking nurse also came with me. I was in the hospital overnight being pumped with fluids and antibiotics. It wasn’t as scary as I imagined being in a foreign hospital because I had people translating for me every step of the way.
Thanks to everyone’s help, I was able to start eating real foods a week later. This experience in China has impacted me the most. I’m still amazed at how many people came to help me! What I was most afraid of happening, actually happened, but now I can see how unreasonable my fears were. I pictured myself in the bathroom alone with no one caring about me and no way of getting help. On the contrary, there were always people with me, I had enough saltine crackers and Gatorade to last me a week while my stomach was still recovering, and my parents were constantly messaging me, so I wouldn’t feel alone.
You might have a fear about coming to China, but I can assure you out of personal experience that fears are often blown out of proportion and are never as bad as we make them out to be. I am no longer afraid of getting food poisoning because I know my community here at Sias will do everything possible to make me feel better. As Napoleon Hill said, “Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” I’m very grateful that I didn’t let my fear get in the way of my adventures! What are some fears you have about being an expat? How do you overcome those fears?