So long, Shanghai. Farewell.
Lifting off from the steaming, teeming, humming, laser-beaming, shiny-gleaming metropolis, I felt like Stephen and I were slithering snakes, shedding a layer of dried-up skin and slipping into a new life.
Eight days in China, and so much changed for us — while we were on the trip, at home, and while we were on the trip, inside our unified little mind bubble.
You know the feeling. Sometimes vacations shift your inner compass permanently, clarify your vision of life, harden your purpose. Existing on distant shores for a week or two allows you get to dip your toe into an alternate reality, a separate self. The Odyssey for Dummies, Marco Polo’s adventures for the couch-bound.
Traveling China-style with our clinically insane travel guide made juggling a full-time job, freelance writing, cooking projects and life look like child’s play. We were up every day at dawn (it is the land of the rising sun, bah doom boom, I’m here all week folks) and home by, oh, 10 pm. I got used to five hours of sleep and fueled myself with the sights, sounds, tastes and chaos of Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai.
Stinky tofu for breakfast (it tastes like moldering blue cheese crossed with kimchi with a dash of pate, yum!), Imperial Palace, Summer Palace, lunching on mysterious street meat in the back alleys of hutong (“I think I just ate a scorpion!”), afternoon in the gardens, kung fu show, supping on Peking Duck (no words), driving tour of Beijing.
Seven more days of this. It was mentally absorb everything, but my favorite moments were:
- Sprinting up the Great Wall in a miniskirt, barefoot
- Kissing Stephen in the middle of Tiananmen Square in front of a poster of Mao
- Getting yelled at by the guards for climbing on the city walls of Xi’an
- Touching Terracotta warriors
- Pomegranate Baby and Pleasant Goat (my two new favorite Chinese toys)
- Walking on glass miles (it felt like) above Shanghai in the Pearl Tower, which I kept (accidentally) calling the Pearl Necklace
- Squirts of herbaceous pork soup dumplings running down my chin after waiting in line for them for 45 minutes in a back alley in Shanghai
- Local women laughing and pointing at my apparently poor technique in the ubiquitous squatty potties
- Realizing that Stephen and I could handle the two things we most feared we could not
This has been a big month for us: I will have major news that I can officially stop wadding up in a big box marked “Don’t Tell!” in my brain soon, which may or may involve large wads of bubble wrap, innumerable trips to fax machines, mass hysteria, deflating bank accounts and large trucks driven by gentleman who earn their keep by lifting objects from one abode and set them down in another.
Meanwhile, Stephen and I are thrilled to be back in the chaos we control on this side of the ocean, with lots of cheese, offal I can identify with confidence and non-Communistical candy. And of course, Penny!
What better way to celebrate our return to the States than with an all-American feast of grilled BBQ Chicken & Macaroni Salad with Bacon & Frozen Strawberry Yogurt?