I’m having a hard time grasping how it’s already nearing the end of November when it seems like just yesterday that I wrote an update on October.
I guess time flies when a chunk of it involved a week in Paris, followed by a non-stop day of touring a side of Guangzhou I hadn’t seen—all amounting to a mental burden of memories I need to sort out and record.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily wish that my life slow down. Losing track of time or feeling tired are costs I’m happy to pay for the experiences of a lifetime.
What I mean by experience of a lifetime was easily demonstrated today, when my mom’s cousins (refuse to go the “once removed” route, too fucking confusing in any language) invited me to Haizhu Wetland Park. At 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday. (HINT HINT: CHINA = 人山人海)
Mind you, I had just returned yesterday afternoon, so the idea of waking up at 7 the day after returning from an international trip to check out a park with my mom’s retired cousins seems ridiculous to any sane person. But I’m apparently insane enough from my need for #adventure that I agreed. Plus, I’ve heard of this very park through the stories I’ve edited for work, so that itself fortunately made up most of my decision. I say fortunately because what initially seemed like a regretful decision ended up being one of my most rewarding.
I awoke after having slept at around the time I’m blogging now. (Yes, I would love to just watch brainless YouTube videos and prepare to sleep now but I NEED to record my life.) By 8:30 on the dot, I arrived to greet my relatives and take the metro all the way to Haizhu. Except for the fact that we had to walk an additional 1+ kilometer to the actual entrance from the metro, only to be visually assaulted by the sheer masses crowding around the entrance. At this point, I recalled what my cousin had just told me on the metro about this place: A 50 RMB entrance fee will be introduced starting January. Naturally, all of fucking China decided to come visit before then. And I mean, ALLL.
From the kid in front of me while waiting among the crowds who laughed with his friends while watching as his excessive white snot dripped down from his nose, to every Chinese person modeling in front of literally the most average-looking trees, every scene in this overhyped, overcrowded park felt like a fucking joke.
But as much as I wanted out, I also could see how unique of an opportunity this was. Not only was I likely the only foreigner there, but I was likely the only Chinese-looking foreigner who could witness it all disguised as one of them. Now, I write with a clear tone of “otherness,” not because I want to sound superior, but rather I want to emphasize just how unique this perspective is. I’m sure no other foreigner today was “lucky” enough to see the madness I saw, from my point of view as an American-born Chinese who lives in China. It’s quite a sight, and I’m happy to share them with you.
I find it necessary to keep what may seem like an overly optimistic and even tolerant outlook on what otherwise sounds like absolute hell. In all aspects, as a foreigner, it WAS hell. But like with many experiences in China or in any foreign land, it’s these moments when you feel completely uncomfortable that make them especially valuable.
I mean, a middle-aged woman who wasn’t particularly pretty was the center of attention while an assistant held a light diffuser panel when there was no sun and while several men holding DSLRs took photos of her in the middle of some weeds in front of a river. Like, if that isn’t China, idk what is. Maybe the crowds for the bathroom and crowds on the bridge to cross over to the fields where one from afar couldn’t distinguish the people from the flowers? Crowds to even visit this shitty park whose wetlands are supposed to be protected are instead literally and figuratively spat on by little girls and grown men alike?
What truly made me happy were the adventures afterward, when it was clear none of us enjoyed the pushy people and unbelievably ugly scenery.
We took a bus to Huangpu Old Town and Port, where we explored the old streets and markets, all of which reminded me of my time in Shanghai last year, when we stopped by a village in Anhui on the way to Huangshan and when we visited the Zhouzhuang Watertown. #ARTsy pictures galore! Since I have so many of them, I’m thinking about uploading my first album in forever to Facebook and spreading them out on Instagram. Right now, I just want to finish writing and go to bed.
The gyst of the experience is this: I tasted some of the best local delicacies and foods, while walking through markets that sold everything, including, chickens, rabbits, tiny crabs, snakes, geese, birds—and more edible items such as fried potato chips on a stick, sesame soup (zee-mah-woo in Chinese), sherng-pay-lai (literally don’t know what this warm milky soup is otherwise called), Guangzhou congee (not that boring Northern shit), and tons more. None of this would have happened without the kindness of my relatives. For that and the happiness gained from such exciting adventures, I am forever thankful.
Afterward, we took a double-decker bus (not without pushing to board, OF COURSE) from the first stop at Huangpu all the way to the last, passing through Guangzhou landmarks including the Canton Tower and the two pagodas—all for three yuan (free with my relative who works for transportation). And what made the whole day even better was the cloudy, overcast skies that made the weather bearable and possible to walk all day and ride on the open-deck bus without worrying about sweating or getting “too tan.” (No umbrellas for the sun, phew).
So many factors made this whole day incredible. Just imagine, I could have spent it sulking in my apartment on a cloudy day.
Instead? Well, I’ll let you be the judge of how my day went. Time to sleep.