Way back when, I saw Chinese characters up close for the first time. This was in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, back in the late 60s, when you couldn’t just turn on your computer and look things up or see new things, because ~ you guessed it ~ nobody had computers then.
I was in junior high school, already studying martial arts, learning about the Orient. A friend bought some firecrackers, quite illegal. One was a dud. So what do a bunch of junior high school boys do with a dud firecracker? Why, of course, we opened it up to see if it would explode in our hands, maybe. We found it was wrapped in newspaper with what we guessed was Chinese characters on it. The Hui family had just moved in from Hong Kong, the only Chinese in our area, so we took the shreds of paper and asked Alex if it was Chinese. Not only did he confirm that it was Chinese, he could read it! I was astounded. What!? You mean people can read and write this stuff? Mind boggling.
To make a long story short, here I am, 50+ years later, still utterly fascinated by Chinese characters.