My time in China flew on by! Here I am back home in Taipei (I officially realized this is now my home when I bypassed the long lines at airport immigration and breezed though the resident line with all the Taiwanese people-what! what!). I often fall in love with the places I go and Chengdu was no exception; though it was, in fact, a totally exceptional place. Despite some initial doubts, Chengdu has left my heart filled with love, my belly content and my mind overflowing with happy memories.
My goals in Chengdu were fivefold (as stated in a previous entry):
• study Chinese medicine (check)
• sing karaoke every night (who was I kidding? I go to bed earlier than most senior citizens)
• drink loads of tea (goal achieved)
• eat Chinese herbs for breakfast (whoops! forgot about this one)
• avoid digestive drama (double check-more on this another time)
And to these ambitions I say (maybe yell, even, cause it feels good) “Goals Schmoles!” Boy oh boy did graduate school make me uptight (note bulleted goals above). The older I get the more I trend towards type A and upon reflection all I really needed in Chengdu was a prescription strength chill pill! I was able to find that, mostly because everything was not as I thought it might be from the very beginning.
Let me just say that I was not prepared for this China trip at all. Sure my friends and I had contacted CDUTCM and made plans to study but the reality was that I was a gale force whirlwind of stress as I packed up my life in Portland and transplanted myself halfway around the globe in Taiwan. This fatigue inducing chaos left me with very little room for planning any details of a trip to China and so I crossed my fingers, opened my Bai Hui and hoped things would fall into place.
A little research may have been helpful. For instance:
Did I know that Hong Kong uses a different currency than Chengdu and that I therefore shouldn’t withdraw a bunch of money at Hong Kong International Airport? Embarrassingly, I did not (and so did I have even a cent for my taxi cab in Chengdu? No, but I am ready for a holiday in Hong Kong!).
And did I research the hotel where I planned to stay with my two other friends for a month? I did not, but if I had I may have realized it was a complete flophouse unsuitable for an extended stay (and some of you know I have stayed in some interesting accommodations over the years).
No. Aaaaand no. I did not know any of this and much more (there were quite a few bumps in the road). But do I maintain faith that things can work themselves out as they should if you carry some love in your heart and maintain a flexible mind? Yes, I most certainly do.
No matter that I didn’t have 1 kuai to my name when I exited the Chengdu International Airport. My nervous energy had made me (predictably) chatty on my flight-for which I was quite fortunate. While explaining my purpose of travel to the passenger seated next to me, a CDUTCM student was sitting just a few aisles away (small world, as always) listening in on my story. As I exited the plane this student caught up with me, showed me their student ID card (because I am sure I looked at him with a suspicious eye), offered some sincere assistance and then proceeded to spend the next 2 hours essentially figuring out my life for me. It was a truly amazing gesture that I would have been lost without.
And no matter that my hotel smelled like armpit. A unanimous decision to seek accommodations elsewhere led us to our new residence, a lovely little hostel on the very special Xiao Tong Alley. Special for so many reasons: laughter pouring out of coffee shops, reggae music (of all things) playing late into the night at the bar across from my window, mahjong games galore, the movie man watching movies on the sidewalk all day every day, the electronic store that sold me an overpriced nonfunctional thumb drive, my yogurt shop (very special people are often found in unexpected places), the street cleaners, meter maids, and even our 5 a.m. wake up call thanks to the man hocking an intense loogie each morning out in the street. As we left for our hospital shift every morning I would raise my head to the sky, often seeing only a blanket of clouds. As my Portland friends know this can be a comforting welcome to the day and so I found life to be quite lovely on my alley and remained a happy camper in the land of Chengdu.
My dear Chengdu I can only say to you zài jìan (literal translation- see you again) because I can’t quite say goodbye.
Join me next time for some of my entertaining Chinese medicine experiences in Chengdu!
And on a more personal note-as I write this post it strikes me that it was this time 6 years ago that I was left to question how much time a very ill version of myself had left on this earth. Today, I am strong and the beauty of life leaves me in constant awe. I am so thankful that I can walk along this planet with each of you as my friendly companions.
xiào zài liànshang, xĭ zài xīnli (with a smile on your face and joy in your heart)