Blue skies here in Chengdu today, or at least what passes for blue skies here-not because of pollution but because of our location in a valley. Clouds tend to gather over our city and congregate for days in a way I’ve never seen before. I hear it’s similar on the US West Coast. In any case, though it’s a touch cool, I couldn’t help but throw down a towel on our filthy balcony, bundle up and drag my laptop out on the balcony for at least a few minutes in the sunshine.
Vitamin D plays a big role in getting over jet lag, also a big mood enhancer and I’ve definitely noticed the effects of not getting enough in our move to Chengdu. It took Chris and I a full week to start sleeping normally and I can’t help but think that some of my bad mood earlier this week might have been alleviated by a little sunshine.
I’ve always considered myself one of those people who flourishes on sunny days but who can also appreciate clouds and drizzle. I think to truly thrive here in Chengdu, I’m going to have to become a bit more of a clouds person. I think I can do it but that doesn’t mean I’m not still loving this little bit of sunshine.
Things have picked up a bit around here. Wednesday night Chris and I headed over to Rachel and Werner’s house for our first “come over for dinner” invitation. We’ve also got a happy hour at Tina’s, brunch plans, and the Hasher’s Red Dress Run on Sunday. Phew!!! After a few days of isolation, all of the social opportunities feel wonderful but I guess it’s true what they say-when it rains it pours!
The sun is disappearing behind clouds once again and I’ve realized that I haven’t written as much as I thought I would thus far about China. Strangely, I haven’t had the visceral reactions to this place that I’ve had for India. Thus far, it’s about small pleasures and delights, a few small annoyances, but nothing earth-shattering.
The food, of course, is delightful. I love to eat normally, but here Chris and I’s shared hobby of eating and obsessing over food has the potential to be taken to a whole new level. I just love to eat here: noodles, doufu, fried dough, rabbit (a regional specialty it seems), pork, rice, greens, fruit. It’s all so good, so inexpensive, so plentiful.
I like the little parks squeezed in under highways and along wide boulevards, filled with brightly colored equipment enjoyed by, to my surprise, not just the young but the adults as well. I like watching people of all ages swinging their arms, running in small circles, playing badminton, jumping up and down, and doing all other sorts of movements in a sort of ritualistic aerobic dance. I suppose its necessary when one lives in a city with this much good food but I just enjoy how much they seem to enjoy it. Exercise seems to be done in small, purposeful movements here, in everyday clothes and in everyday places. So different from the gym culture, strap on your special shoes and wear your special gym gear, way of exercising that we have in the US. I’ll never forget walking down the street and coming upon an elderly woman in a vest and simply walking shoes rhythmically swinging her arms and patting her sides, front and even her butt in a sort of aerobic stretching exercise.
One of the other things I love here is how much everyone loves children. Here, as in many places, it’s the grandparents who care for the young kids and their joy and pride is just so wonderful to witness. It sounds trite, but nothing breaks language or cultural barriers like watching a little girl in pigtails run and jump in to the welcoming arms of her grandfather, watching him laugh in delight as the weight of her hits him full force and he nuzzles her close. I love watching these grandparents tirelessly walk alongside their children’s children as they ride down the sidewalks in kiddie cars and other wheeled toys.
I like that people here are generally friendly, helpful, patient with my bad Chinese. They seem happy, for the most part. The other day I watched as one of the guards of our complex sat for hours on a bench near our house with a petite girl in fatigues. Though they sat on opposite sides of the bench, the joy radiating from their smiles just made me smile and take extra care to give them as much privacy as I could. A Sunday afternoon on a park bench seemed to be as much of a date as this young couple could swing at the moment, but oh did they seem happy to have it.
Yes, so far I like China but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on huge pieces of what this country and its people are all about. The things that I like about this place, so far are genuinely, instantly, pleasurable. In India, it took a long time to like anything. All those little experiences of India that I treasure-a good thali, a cheap autoride, haggling in a market, riding around the country on an old bus, the totally unique spirit of the people in different places, across different classes, took time to find and more time to learn how to appreciate fully. They were hard won pleasures. I do look forward to finding a few more of those here too, maybe as my language gets a bit better.