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Memoirs of a Very Homesick Globetrotting Detroiter: Part I

Here, in Taiwan, I feel like a celebrity.

I'm presented to family, friends, and friends of family as “Emily, the one from America, you know, the one from Detroit, Mich.” This introduction is usually followed by “ooh's,” “ahh's” and amazed stares generally reserved for a traveling circus.

I am not nearly as interesting as a traveling circus.

What people here are amazed by is something that, in the United States, usually warrants a blurted “oh, really?” and a look of concern or an offhand comment about the “poor automotive industry” or the “struggling economy.” What they are amazed by here in Taiwan is something many native southeast Michiganders seem to act embarrassed about: I am from Detroit.

I have been in Taipei, Taiwan, for only a week, but the difference between here and my hometown of Farmington Hills is so staggering it feels like a month. In this week, I have been introduced to roughly 10 new people, who have each reacted with varying degrees of incredulity, and two to seven questions apiece about my hometown, and what it is like living in the Detroit area.

At first, this was a strange contrast to the negative remarks and sarcastic questions about living in a suburb of Detroit. Example: “So, do you bring a gun with you when you go to the city? ”

In my first week here, I have grown accustomed to -- can it be true? -- feeling immensely proud to be considered a Detroiter.

I've realized that part of the reason people have been feeling so down about Detroit and Michigan is because of the negativity we ourselves hold toward our home.

I've realized that our towns can be as revered as we hope for them to be, as beautiful as we plan for them to be, and as successful as we work for them to be.

This awareness has inspired optimism in me, and I've been itching to share it with everyone. It's all about a change of perspective and a never-ending positive attitude.

Detroit was, is, and will continue to be a great town. We are here to keep it that way.

Read Part II of this post here.

Emily Jan is part of the “TIME 11,” a group of Detroit area high-school students working with Assignment Detroit.

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