“It seems to matter not the quality or amount of a night’s sleep. We are tired. It’s beginning to feel a marathon of the spirit. It is both the physical exertion of exploration but I believe more than that the mental/emotional exertion of days filled with frustration, misunderstanding, dashed hopes, and a perpetual string of things unexpected. Although constantly on our toes, we are continually off-balance. One moment leads to the other as opposed to one moment leading the other. It is a never ending chess match.” –Personal Journal entry, April 15, 2008
Personal Journal Entries: I wrote a lot on this trip — an entire Moleskine was filled with thoughts, simple here-to-see-this-and-there-to-see-that, and a lot of reflection. More than I thought upon reviewing the entries. And more of it negative than I thought I was feeling at the time. The trip was physically challenging. Four weeks of carrying heavy backpacks, staying in hostels, eating sparsely, utilizing squatter toilets, unable to drink the water, wearing dirty clothes, cold at times, constantly struggling with the language barrier, it was the adventure of a lifetime and one of great personal insight. Throughout the month I struggled with the lack of smiles and the absence of small kindnesses. Being born and raised as a Southern gal, a ready smile and a certain degree of helpfulness has been bred in.
“I am more susceptible to bad vibes than to good. I would like to say I ‘seem’ to be more susceptible, but that would just be being nice to myself and a waste of words. It’s been said that I go from shit-to-sugar quickly and I accept that as a compliment. The truth is my sugar-to-shit fuse is a shorter one. I am not proud of this trait and work hard to head it off. Much of the time I am unsuccessful. Point being I have become rather short on smiles as the days have worn on. There have been few smiles (but a lot of stares) directed towards us. Of course I could excuse my growing surliness on the fact my normal chipper attitude has had far greater pressure on it (from the great populace of China) than I have been able to singly exert upon them. But that’s just an excuse. I am a visitor on their turf and feel I should be ever-pleasant to be here. I will work on it for the remainder of my stay.” — Personal Journal Entry, April 18, 2008
My entries are chock full of wonderful human interest stories that filled pages. One in particular stands out involving a young Chinese man on his first plane ride with whom we shared the row of seats. With this one incident I journaled this revelation: “In the span of a only a day I’ve gone from complaining of the lack of kindnesses from the Chinese to the slap-me-in-the-face reminder that the best kindnesses ARE THOSE YOU EXTEND TOWARDS OTHERS.” — Personal Journal Entry, April 20, 2008
Just prior to this incident, I’d written: “…David, the Australian, said he was noting in his journal all the kindnesses directed towards him. He is a better human being than me. And his journal will be far scarcer than my own for that.” LOL!
Here’s a smattering of other entries: Driving in China: “I have been astounded at how things seem to magically fall away just as we are to collide with them. It is as if slow motion is invoked when anything gets within an inch of something else. I’ve tried closing my eyes but my curiosity gets the better of me.” — Personal Journal Entry, April 9, 2008
“We are one-half through our journey. It is everything I expected, hoped for, and more. There have been moments, even entire days of frustration, fear, exhaustion. But even in the midst of this discomfort, **** and I have reveled in the joy of discovering the unknown, overcoming the obstacles, and feasting our eyes, ears, touch, taste and smell on China.” — Personal Journal Entry, April 14, 2008
“For most of the trip, I’ve been excited, when I haven’t been scared. And **** and I have had quite a few laughs. Many at the expense of the Chinese people. Some truly unkind. Maybe we really are arrogant, American asses. Maybe we’ve just been straining for something to freakin’ laugh at.” — Personal Journal entry, April 19, 2008
“Confusion, sincere concern, unabashed fear, dread, panic…” — Personal Journal entry, April 11, 2008
China is known as Zhongguó in Mandarin. The character zhong means “middle” or central; the letter, guó means land, kingdom or country. An appropriate English translation would be “middle kingdom”.
Chengdu, Sichuan Province
Leshan, Sichuan Province
Lijiang, Yunnan Province
The day the picture below was taken was dreary. The light was drearier. So I played around with Photoshop and finally achieved a result with some degree of appeal. And this depiction is actually a decent representation of the images my mind registered that day.