Monday, June 30, 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008


I have only been home for one week, I try to reflect back on my trip but cannot seem to capture or put into words my exact experience. The most prominent thing left with me are the lessons I learned, how I felt at specific moments and the amount of gratitude that I gained for what I have. Visiting China has changed my life.

We started our trip on May 9th, 2008 in Beijing. We arrived in the rain.. It was humid and hot.. I was immediately grateful for where I live. The streets at home are cleaner, the air is easier to breathe, the pollution is less, the toilets are clean, more accessible and at home you didn’t have to risk peeing on your leg.

I was taken back by the culture… no one waits in line, drivers will run you over if you are crossing the streets even on your turn…. Everyone that drives honks their horn constantly to let the other drivers know exactly where they are and to warn them that they will be passing on the shoulder. There are just as many bikes as cars... they load them up full.

The lack of simple conveniences; toilet paper, hand soap, and chocolate that were available in China instantly humbled me, made me more grateful, compassionate and aware.

I became content and grateful for the real important things and the non-tangible things that generate happiness and contentment. Things like slowing down to take a walk, or having coffee with a close friend, playing games with children, praying and visiting a place of worship or most importantly accepting and enjoying the world that you live in because it is the most raw and real thing that you could ever feel.

I liked watching the groups of people old and young playing cards and soccer on the streets and in parks because these places are nicer than the dark alleys that they live behind. Many people in China have nothing, yet they hang on the streets, contentment on their faces because they know of nothing better, they do not covet… they are just happy with what they have.

Although I instantly felt bad for the living situation of the people in China; skyscraping apartments rising above the street front stores that were only accessed through dark dirty alley ways, with windows covered by bars and spaces that were barely enough for one shared between 5… I was also envious of their contentment.

I realized quickly that it is not money or possession that brings happiness, but yet is a means of instant gratification- comfortable survival and convenient distraction. A distraction from being easily satisfied and from realizing what is true.

China is beautiful and true! The places that I saw and the mountains I climbed only allowed me to get away long enough to ponder and learn of me, who I am, where I am at in my life and what I can change to become better happier and more content.

We traveled all through China- South to North… 24 hour sleeper buses, trains and planes. The travel at times was really tiring and draining, but all worth it as the adventures got greater and more surreal.

In Beijing walking only 5 miles of the thousand on the Great Wall was truly the most incredible thing.. The Wall stretched for as long as I could see among the most beautiful mountains… it was peaceful and mind blowing; how could this exist. We were 5 out of the 15 people on the wall that day…. I cried and smiled of its beauty.

Beijing was also the home of the Forbidden City. The temples were huge, and beautiful.

From Beijing we traveled to Xian, where we were able to backpack to the top of Huashan. An old Taoist temple ground. The temples were built on the very top of the steepest mountains that I have ever seen… I do not know how they were built, but they were built in an incredible place… The stairs to the top were scary. Carved out of the mountain,
straight up and down, guided by a chain. We stayed at the top in a hostel, only to wake to the most inspiring sunrise and peaceful morning.

We then went to Tigers Leaping Gorge, which we spent three days hiking. We stayed with families in their guesthouses and ate with them. These families are the hardest workers that I have ever seen. They work dawn to dust in the rice fields, carrying things that seem far to heavy to be on anyone’s back. The mountains that they live in were so incredible. They were huge, most of the time the tops of the mountains were disguised by the clouds.

Guilin and Yangshou were the first villages that I went to where I could actually see blue skies. The streets were quaint and small. The people liked us here, and wanted to talk to us in order to practice their English. We saw the Chinese orchestra… that was nonetheless an interesting experience.. The old men were the cutest people in the world, although they were very grumpy.
In Guilin we were chased by a very angry monkey that just happened to be in a public park. . . . I may have peed my pants from both fear and laughter.Yangshou had mountains that looked like they were straight out of a Dr. Suess book…
I could not wrap my mind around how they looked like they did.. We had a local women take us into some caves, that we got to by hopping onto small, wobbly bamboo rafts and chains that guided you up pounding waterfalls. She insisted that we swim in a huge mud pit, and was trying to convince us that the mud was good for our skin.

Although I kind of believed her about the skin thing, I could not get over what might be living in the mud. As soon as I stepped in the mud, I swear things started slivering over my legs. I had to grin and bear it…. Everyone else was.
Our local friend took us to her house and cooked us the best food that I had eaten during my whole time in China (this was our fourth week out of six in this country).

Yangshou was my favorite place.. Unfortunately it rained so much that it flooded and we were only able to spend two days there.

Hong Kong was HUGE.. I felt like I was in New York.

It was Urban, and very fast pace… We stayed in the most ghetto hostel that I swear was run by the mafia.

They still served strange food here…. Like horse penis and chicken feet, but it was still an incredible place to be… I shopped far too much and filled my pack to the point of misery.

We took a break from constant travel on a small Island with beautiful beaches called Sanya.
It ended up being a Russian vacation destination, which made a whole new cultural experience. It was really fun, except that I was in bed for three days with food poisoning.

Shanghai was the future China., and the place in which I obtained an extra bag, an even larger backpack and my first Starbucks Frappacino.. It was so so so delicious. This city modeled Chicago and L.A, and had really fun dance clubs and hostels. It was the last city that we visited before our trip home, and an excellent way to end the trip.

Overall, The food was not really great in China… I did like the street vendor food, and all the corn on the cob. They also had the greatest grilled veggies ever. I didn’t eat much there, mostly because it is not uncommon for there to be dog, monkey, snake or pig blood soup on the menu, and our changes of eating this only increased when the menu was ONLY in Chinese.

We saw Pandas, huge spiders, poop in the streets…. People pooping in the streets, rich people, poor people, poverty beyond any that I have ever known, temples, cute old people, beautiful children , and strange… extra long dogs..
My eyes were open to a whole new world. I loved this adventure and hoe to have many more. We met people from all over the world who were traveling to find answers…. Peace, love, comfort and adventure. Good people, not so good people, but regardless all that I saw added to the one of the top experiences of my life.

Six weeks was plenty of time in China.. I wish that I could have been more of a help to this country during my time there. Unfortunately our plans to help build a school fell through due to the earthquake and the strict restrictions that were put on tourist.

Six weeks later, I am happy to be home. I shopped traveled and loved all of China.. I missed my family immensely and am so grateful for their love and support.