First, I took a walk around a nearby lake admiring everything around me. A group of ladies dancing around with a colorful fan in one hand. Their bodies moving around so delicately. Just a few feet from them an elderly lady sits alone on the bench singing opera as other ladies listen while knitting a pair of socks. A man sitting below a tree meditating. A group of people practicing Thai Chi. Others scattered throughout doing their morning exercises under a line of cherry blossom trees (exercises like walking backwards, or standing and just hitting themselves – ( I guess it’s a way to get the qi [energy] flow going throughout their bodies), clapping their hands, swaying their arms back and forth, and other random exercises. A man propped upside down on a bench. Maybe a form of Yoga?
I sit on a park bench to people watch for a moment. Business men carrying suitcases frantically trying to get to work on time. The “minority” women in their colorful traditional clothing, carrying their babies in a sling behind them, school children in their uniforms, boys in their taekwondo outfits. People walking their dogs dressed in a sweater and booties. (I guess when you are only allowed to have one child here, people will tend to spoil their dogs.) There’s just so much going on , and I could spend hours just people watching. And I do just that. After a morning of people watching, I hop on my bicycle to join the other bicyclists and families (dog included) on their scooters. I pass by a line of restaurants with flashing Chinese characters full of people inside digging their chopsticks into a bowl of oily noodles. Vendors lining the street selling fruits, vegetables, dog, chicken feet, etc. People everywhere.
I pedal to a river, where I’m better able to escape the crowds and be at peace. I direct my focus on the river, allowing the craziness of this city to escape my mind. Even with people walking by, I do my best to block them out. Their stares at me often last longer than a respectable amount of time. Maybe they are admiring the largeness of my eyes, the curliness of my hair, or my plump figure. (Yes in China I am fat, which is much different than in El Salvador, where I often was forced to eat all time since they thought I looked like a sick, unhealthy, undernourished individual.) Perhaps they are wondering why I am alone, sitting, staring, and writing. Some take a look at me, then at the spot in the river where my mind found peace, expecting to find some strange creature or something. They don’t see what I see… they haven’t found what I found, and they carry on with their days.
I love China. Of course there are some things I’m still getting used to. But overall, I couldn’t be happier with my move here. The culture. The people. The new foods. The new friends. My soul and mind continue to grow with each day. The euphoria and freedom I feel of being in a new place on the other side of the world. On my bike ride home, I take a few more moments to admire everything around me. Next month, or maybe even never week, everything will begin to appear normal.