This year’s 4th of July celebration was unique, to say the least. For as long as I can remember, I have spent Independence Day either with family in St. Louis, or friends in Chicago. Regardless of where I was celebrating, each year consisted of the standard grilling of hot dogs, burgers, brats, and other various barbecued meat products, to go with a day filled with patriotism, various assorted beverages, and of course, fireworks. This year, however, was quite different. A couple of days ago, Cathy came to us with an idea that Maria, one of her other American friends, had brought to her, which entailed an afternoon on a boat with around twenty-five of her friends. She went on to explain that there would be all kinds of food and we would be stopping at a little abandoned island to hang out and grill, which sounded like a great time, so we jumped at the invitation and we eagerly anticipated what was sure to be a fantastic day. With seemingly each passing day, the temperature started to rise. On the day of the 4th, as Bryan, Cathy, and I ate breakfast, we kicked around the idea of finding a fun activity to do inside and comfortably situated in a nice, air-conditioned room. Fortunately, we were told that the boat had a cover, so we could hide in the shade if we needed to and didn’t have to sit out in the sun all day. We decided to give it a try, so we packed up our things and made our way over to meet the group.
I figured that the group would primarily be composed of Americans, with it being American Independence Day and all. Much to my surprise, the only Americans there were Maria, Cathy, Bryan and I. We had people from all over the globe, including Indonesia, Holland, Russia, and of course, China, just to name a few. There were even a few Red Coats, but relations remained friendly and we saw no need to refresh their memory on how our forefathers dominated theirs, a mere 230 years ago. I was a little disappointed, however, that I was not able to parade around the boat with my King George effigy doll. Even though we were the only people actually celebrating our independence (one of the men from Holland actually wished us a happy Thanksgiving), we were still able to have a great time with everybody. While we were not united by our nationalities, in the case of the other foreigners, we were able to share the common bond of leaving our homes for this very different environment. With the Chinese people on the boat, it was just as exciting to talk to them about what brought us to China and the various things we have done here, as well as their suggestions of new places to go and things to try. All and all, it made for a pretty incredible day. While it wasn’t as steeped in tradition as all of the past celebrations, it was a truly special experience and one of my most memorable. Over the course of the day, it was said on numerous occasions that if somebody would have told us a year ago that on July 4th, 2010, we are going to be on a boat, hanging out with a group of people from all over the world, sailing to a deserted island off the coast of China, there was no way we would have believed them. I feel like that has been the theme of this summer. Whether we are playing basketball with the locals, buying various foods from street vendors, or even singing karaoke, I know I can speak for everybody when I say it is pretty amazing how many new and unique opportunities we have had in these past six weeks. With our departure for Beijing about ten days away and our return to the states just two weeks away, our time here is drawing to a close. How we will spend these last few days, I cannot be sure. What I can say for certain is that we will continue to add to our pretty incredible list of memories from an unbelievable summer.