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Jackson Hotaling: In China the "transportation situation is just on a completely other level, and I will never forget that."

Jackson Hotaling has short brown hair and is wearing a light brown shirt. He smiles into the camera.
Becca Newton
Jackson Hotaling spent a year living in China prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and said the effective transportation system was something "I will never forget."

Jackson Hotaling works in Columbia for a non-profit focusing on equitable access to transportation and spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the State Historical Society’s Bicentennial event in August.

He spent a year living in China before the COVID-19 pandemic and spoke about the differences between his experience abroad and his life in Missouri.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Jackson Hotaling: I felt completely welcomed in China everywhere I went, you know, like, people were interested to meet me, people were welcoming, it was easy to talk to people even if I couldn't communicate very well, or like, have lots of interesting food and discussions through my friends about kinds of places that I can go.

I don't necessarily feel that here in the same way. Even around Colombia, I feel this sometimes that it's not a welcoming place for people that aren't of “your kind,” in a certain sense Like I was walking down a one-way street, northeast of here, earlier this week, and I got stopped by a woman who said, “I don't live on the streets, I shouldn't be there.”

That kind of stuff happens in rural areas, too. Like, you know, lots of Confederate flags, and it's a little more extreme there, I think.

But I don't feel welcomed here at all the same way that I did living in China, which is interesting to me, considering I grew up in Missouri.

Becca Newton

I'm somebody who's open and interested and wants to meet new people and have conversations with people. So, like, in my work environment, I already came in kind of being introduced through another coworker, like, people that I could meet, and I do feel open, and I think they're trying to make an effort.

But it's a hard battle when they're faced with a lot of people that live outside of the communities that are very focused on land ownership, and that is a huge factor, you know, like trespassing.

In China, I'm able to go walk anywhere, and nobody is like, you know, “get off my land,” but there's so many places – I'm so much more limited here in the places I could go.

So it's important, I think, while I'm there to recognize that there are some amazing things that are going on, but while that's also happening – for certain segments of the population, it is a completely different story.

I mean, just like the case here, you know, some people are doing very well financially, but at the same time, like people are living on the street. I never saw people living on the street in China.

So, it's one of those things, like there's some things that go well, and there's some things that don't, so it's important to kind of understand and have that balance.

I think that that's something that was a huge takeaway was the public space and transportation situation that existed there is just on a completely other level, and I will never forget that and that's what I miss the most.

And that's what I want to help improve on now that I'm here in Missouri, working with this position, realizing people have to walk across a highway to get to like the gas station, there's no grocery store in town.

It's the fact that people are risking their lives and sometimes end up dying or getting hit by cars, just to try to like buy pizza or something at a grocery store, like that's the stuff that we're trying to address in rural communities.

So, we're so far behind on certain things like that, and I think it's really important to try to improve that situation here for the people that don't have cars.

Noah Zahn is a student producer for KBIA and a junior at the University of Missouri-Columbia studying journalism and music.
Becca Newton is a student reporter and producer at KBIA. They will graduate from the University of Missouri in spring 2022 with a degree in Multimedia Convergence Journalism and minors in Peace Studies and History.