Wandering through China
I don't think anywhere else in the world changes quite so drastically within the blink of an eye. A building is there one day, the next it has already been demolished and a jiao zi restaurant has popped up with a queue down the block. Pretty much anything and everything bizarre happens in the cities of China on a daily basis. Fireworks in the streets, children running into walls with cereal boxes on their heads, street performing squirrels, three day traffic pile ups, violent old ladies gunning for a taxi cab, and well the frequent explosion at the toy factory. As unusual as everyday seemed, I could always count on the clatter and chatter of street vendors tossing food in giant woks; perusing my favorite tea house for the days special blend; strolling in the market to bargain for freshly drum roasted almonds; and every night watching the lively celebration of life and technology as neon lights and tech screens lit up the sky.
Chinese culture is vast, multi-ethnic, colourful, and varies from location to moment to season. As immense as the culture and country are, every detail has been placed with purpose in a mixture of complexity and simplicity. Soak it all in, and create a splash! Learning, or at least attempting to learn the language opens the way from passive onlooker to active, strange participant. I found myself striking up conversations with strangers who then quickly became friends. They invited me to meals, tea, to play checkers, or to even Lang Lang concerts. The greatest privilege was an invitation into the intimate family circle of the modern Zhu household where I was embraced and encouraged to participate in the stream of every day household life.
Leaving the cities behind, I fell into a very different way of being and speaking amongst the myriad of ethnicities. There were more requests to toast rice wine than humanly possible, that or fermented yak milk while sharing a charcoal brazier in, Shangri La, with Silk Road traders. In Yangshuo, time in the villages allowed leisurely strolls through mountains straight out of Dr. Seuss, and even more time to rock climb a few of them with local professional rock climbers. Adventure, relaxation and good conversation was in every province of each little or big village I visited.