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“Love you lots, you brave girl,” Dad said.

Our plane departed Washington D.C. at 7:55 on Friday morning. A short layover in Chicago, fourteen hours of napping and squirming over the ocean, another transfer in Shanghai, three hours of death-heavy sleep on my first non-American flight, and a bumpy half-hour bus ride later, we stood outside Zhongfang Grand Hotel, a smallish hotel/karaoke bar on Hong Kong Middle Road, Qingdao, Shandong, China.

Are you brave? 

     I hope so.*

This is my second experience in China; my first was in Harbin, Heilongjiang, through CET Academic Programs. As a First, China was charming. I loved the fruit vendors and the bicycle-singers, the candied sweet potatoes with warm soy milk, the underground markets and the snow (and I still do!) – and I adapted to the pollution, the traffic, and the language barrier smoothly.

Now, China is a Second. Traveling a Second is much more difficult because the novelty is mostly faded and the expectations are higher.

The very next morning after our arrival, we sat through several hours of on-site orientation before meeting our individual tutors, volunteer students from Ocean University of China. Another day of orientation and pre-class preparation, then Tuesday morning at 8:00a classes began. Since then, I have written most of a 1400 character essay, read three-and-a-half textbook chapters and various essays, and given two oral reports – all in a Mandarin-only language environment.

Is that brave?

Today I jaywalked alone across an eight-lane highway in urban China, but that wasn’t brave – that was dumb. In my self-confidence, have I acted on another foolish idea? Or am I, in my fear and Second-guessing, maybe brave?

My dad thinks I am. Those words ring in my ears:

“…you brave girl.”

I do hope so.