Before I explain the ways in which China demonstrated its complete and utter whooping of me, let me share just a few of the positives:
1. I got to go to China. For this alone I feel humbled and privileged.
2. I met some amazing new friends who will be friends for life.
3. I saw and walked The Great Wall. Saw the Terracotta Warriors and Giant Pandas, etc. etc. etc. The sights were as spectacular as they promised to be. I made some bargains for more gifts (hee, hee – thanks, Chiara!).
4. China caused me to push myself in too many ways to enumerate. From the “you get what you pay for” hotel room(s), to being completely and utterly lost in every city I’ve visited, tourist map and Lonely Planet in hand, the small print in both causing me to need new glasses the second I get back. Breaking down and/ or giving up were NEVER an option.. I found strength in corners of my being I didn’t know existed.
5. I will have stories after stories to share, re-hash, re-think, and re-share. Life lessons for decades.
6. Angels appeared out of the woodwork, as they have in every stop along this incredible journey. Just when I wanted to throw my hands up in defeat, someone invariably stopped what they were doing and asked me if I needed help – both literally and figuratively. And almost every time, I did:) I gave thanks for these moments, for they always made me pause and reflect about the amazing, caring human spirit that transcends language, culture, and religion.
7. I crowd surfed on at least two occasions.
And here are the ways China whooped my butt:
1. This place is massive, and there are a TON of people here. I have never experienced anything on this scale EVER. Walking kilometers and kilometers every day because taxis will simply not pick up blonde-headed monolingual tourists has forced me to work on my legs. Not a bad thing considering snowboard season is right around the corner. But add being totally lost into the equation, and it doesn’t feel so great. Especially when it’s such a reliable feeling – I can depend on it to happen at least once (and sometimes as many as ten times!) per day. The panic I feel when leaving the “familiar” zone each day is subsiding, but it’s still there. “What if……”
2. When I come back to China, I must have some basic Mandarin speaking skills. Without these, I truly missed a lot of what China has to offer – most of all, its people. Oh, and food:)
3. The whole “zoo animal” thing has finally gotten to me. Today, in a WalMart type store (I needed socks!) the WHOLE cosmetics section stared, pointed and giggled. Now, I know that when one is in an unfamiliar situation it is tempting to think people are talking about you when they, in fact. couldn’t possibly care less. This is clearly NOT the case for me in China. I have started to stare back – not in a mean way, but to acknowledge that I see people looking at me. Kind of an odd feeling, but it makes the point, and the staring tends to stop..
4. Waiting for a bus today I empathized greatly with a young woman who projectile vomited the second she vacated her bus. That was, well, maybe the one millionth bodily function I’ve witnessed on the street in the two weeks I’ve been here. Folks – few bodily functions are reserved for the privacy of the home or toilet. I won’t detail further. If you have been to the bigger cities in China, you know. If you haven’t, please don’t try to imagine. It’s far better to think about the clean, dignified China delivered through our mass media.
5. I’m just plumb tuckered out, and China contributes to this tiredness in volumes. The mere sensory overload associated with being in cities this big, understanding NOTHING that’s said and attempting to reach a destination or even eat a decent meal has beat me down.
6. After 2 1/2 months in Asia, I DEARLY miss my family and friends. I miss the familiarity of home. I miss things being “easy” to do. I hope I never take any of these for granted again.
Now, please don’t interpret this list as whining or complaining, because I certainly cannot complain about what started out and has continued to become the trip of a lifetime. Every experience, every person, every moment spent lost in a new place, and every breath of relief upon finding my hostel is precious.
Monday I depart China for two nights in Thailand (sigh!!!! Calm, quiet Thailand!), and then it’s back to The States on Wednesday when my re-integration and physical fitness programs will really begin.
Thanks to everyone who has continued to follow my adventures through this blog. I have big plans for it and will be adding photos, sprucing it up with details, more edits, etc. when I get home. It has been a pleasure sharing these stories with all of you – you inspire me to dredge my journal for more “material” every day.