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Before: “Hi China, my name is Caitlin”

By 23 June 2009 No Comment

So now the next stop is China. China. I never thought I was the kind of person that would go to China but I can’t explain why. Latin America, Europe and Africa attracted me from as far back as I can remember, and I have lived and worked extensively in all three…but never Asia.

Preparing for this trip for several months – in stark contrast to my usual 72-hour pre-departure scrambles to go work on various epidemics in Africa – has allowed China to sit with me quietly, and not so quietly, for a while. We’re getting used to each other, testing out our ideas. In one conversation we debate the infamous one-child policy. “What else were we supposed to do?” asks China. “But what about the rights of people to create families?” I counter. In another we spar about free access to information. Each time China ends the dialogue by saying, “It’s just better this way.”

Now I am thirsty for the real thing. Instead of confronting imaginary food safety officials, I want to talk to Chinese mothers who make daily decisions in the market about what to feed their babies. Though reading reports about staggering rural-urban migration has been illuminating, I want to talk to a young man from a rural area about his hopes and dreams….and the reality.

As usual I expect that a month on the ground wandering back alleys and major thoroughfares will put my prejudices and preconceptions in perspective and introduce a whole new dimension to my relationship with a country I can only barely fathom. The imaginary conversations will be even more interesting then. I can’t wait.

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