What are we chasing for?

When traveling in the countryside, we always saw families sitting on the grassland, eating, drinking Suutei tsai (milk tea), talking and laughing, with a car parking nearby. In the first few days in Mongolia, I always wondered how come a family could afford time to have outing together even though it wasn’t weekend.

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The more I traveled in Mongolia, the more jealous I was towards Mongols. Most of people we met were nomads. Occasionally we passed by small towns and villages, which were like neighborhoods in China where everyone knew everyone. The whole families are together: women cook, men graze, kids play in mud, and the elders talk family affairs…

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I grew up in a village in east part of China. Back then we had our house with a clean river flowing in front of the yard and a small bamboo grove at the back. My grandparents had their own farmlands and orchard. My cousin and I could catch butterflies, earthworms, dragonflies, cicadas, etc. and we could pick oranges, peaches, pears, dates, strawberries, etc. We played rope skipping, shuttlecock kicking, and marble shooting with other kids in the village. Neighbors frequently visited each other and talked gossips while waving bamboo fans after sunset…

I was born in 1993, 15 years after the Economic Reform and Open Up, when China was undergoing rapid development. And as everyone knows, Eastern China was the most developed part. My hometown also underwent tremendous changes. When I was around 15, my village was starting to be torn down to make way for a provincial motorway. Since then, things started to change too. People moved to flats in towns or even bigger cities. They had better jobs instead of working in farmlands. However, something deep inside our heart also started to change. When we achieved more, we wanted even more – more money, bigger flats, nicer cars, etc. The days when one family could share a huge fish with all others in the village were gone. The days when kids were happy with new clothes before Chinese New Year were gone.

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In the first two weeks back in the concrete jungle after my long trip, I couldn’t adapt to this fast living pace. Everyone is rushing and pushing. You don’t see people’s faces – either because they walk too fast or because they are too busy with their business on phones. Of course, people have to struggle to buy flats, cars, new iPhones, fancy clothes, top makeups, etc. However, looking at the nomads and thinking about ourselves, I doubt: are we really happy? When was the last time when we had a family get-together?

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