I dreamt of Italy, Greece, and England, but I never once thought the first stamp on my passport would be from China.
HoneyBunch’s oldest son has taught in Shijiazhuang for almost three years and he married a wonderful, young Chinese woman over one year ago. He brought her to the US last summer to meet our family, so HB booked just the two of us on a travel tour of China then extended our departure a few days so that we could travel inland on our own for a short family visit.
On the tour, we visited Shanghai and sailed up the Yangtze. We flew to Xian and Beijing and walked on hallowed ground reserved only for holy monks and dragon emperors. In the old days, we would have been killed instantly for such sacrilege (and it wouldn’t have been pretty or quick).
We snapped flashbulbs into the eyes of thousands of unblinking Terra Cotta Soldiers. We climbed The Great Wall of China and looked out for miles and miles as it stretched out on either side of us. We visited museums with priceless treasures, went through the five gigantic locks at the Three Gorges Dam, and ate all kinds of delicacies with our chopsticks.
When the tour ended, we said goodbye to our fellow travelers, and HB and I trekked off on our own, armed only with a couple of phrases written in Chinese (in case we needed help) and dependent on the kindness of others. The further we ventured off the tourist path, the less English we encountered around us. We would point to our written phrases and folks would point us in the right direction.
Once we met up with our son’s family, we were safe once again. They turned out no different than our family and friends here at home. We instantly liked each other despite the language barrier. Our children acted as our translators. The men talked of manly things; the women asked me about makeup and jewelry. They hinted at taking me shopping, but my luggage was already at its weight limit. The time with them went too fast.
Now at home, I put away my passport and I wonder how to fit all my memories into one, tiny stamp. Pictures and words cannot describe it all. Everything was overwhelming - six thousand years of China’s past compounded by the astounding economic future ahead for them. Even the landmarks heralding all of this are immense.
And what about all the wonderful and amazing people we met? Folks we may never see again, face to face. We could not have asked for kinder fellow travelers or a nicer family of in-laws to call our own. For one tiny, moment in time the world seemed a kinder, friendlier place, one in which we all truly liked each other.