On the bus from Calgary to Banff,there are three passengers, a Chinese (me) and two Japanese. The bus driver is listening to an opera. I have no idea what it is. To the world in which I grew up, opera is as foreign as cheese. The two Japanese are chatting enthusiastically. I can only understand “Hai” (ye) — why do they keep agreeing with each other? I am reading a book by John Landers, a British historian writing about population and wars in the pre-industrial west.

At some moment, I feel lost, in space and time. In the meantime, I have a strange feeling of being at home. During the past thirty years of my life, I always feel being an outsider. Being adopted, I was an outsider to the family; moving from a village to Beijing, I was an outsider to the city; moving to Stockholm, I was an outsider to Europe; getting a PhD in Europe and a job in the US, I was an outsider to the US academia. But now I am more relaxed about this, and prouder of this.

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