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Being an American, there are two countries that hold my loyalty – one in which I was born and another in which my blood was born. It was the time to visit China, the country of my parents. First stepping foot in Beijing, I was immediately confronted by the heat and humidity. It was summer. Beijing, to my surprise was a modern-day city, equipped with the usual ruckus of construction, large buildings, and wide highways. My first expedition was to the malls, which was similar to the suburban malls of my city except the lowest level was given to numerous cheap venders who sold glittering and noisy trinkets, jade jewelry, or fashionable Asian wear. Being semi fluent in Chinese, I asked my cousin to help me squabble prices. I had never been to a store where I had to haggle and was very intrigued to see my price-savvy cousin spin off prices with the nervous vender until he craftily begins to wail about how many mouths to feed and can’t afford to lower the price much more. We later visited the famous duck restaurant of Beijing QuÃ¡n JÃ¬ DÃ©, which founded the original recipe of roasting ducks. Mere words cannot convey the palatal pleasure of the sweet and succulent roasted duck meat. Looking beyond the lazy-suzy, I spotted the restaurants open kitchen with five large, juicy ducks hanging over a fire. China’s restaurants had my respect.
On the next day, I sailed through the Valley of the Happy Dragon. In a small boat, my family and I drifted down a clear green river winding through densely vegetated mountains which rose frighteningly yet gently towards the sky and ended in a friendly, round hump on the top. Nowhere in America had I seen such steep yet round mountains. The mountains eclipsed with mist, trickling water, and distant hum of monks were the embodiment of those exotic Chinese paintings and I was reminded of what true serenity was. I also visited the almighty Forbidden City, splattered with carvings from the floors of the city to the roofs of the majestic buildings. The city was a place of contrast where visitors were able to see and imagine the grandeur of the old Emperors’ palace from the faded and worn statues and buildings. When I looked down on that misty, wet day I saw the bricks paved in the courtyard worn into uneven humps like little gray buttons. Bending down, I picked up a fragment of the pavement probably stepped on by scurrying Chinese officials late to a meeting or perhaps the Emperor himself. It was a good souvenir. Inspired, I snapped a photo of the head of a dragon engraved in a bridge whose mouth sprouted the spring, green leaves of a weed.
China, to me, was a country of surprises from its squatting bathrooms that supplied no toilet paper to the early morning smell of fried yÃ³u tiÃ¡o and the stylish haircuts of the youth. But what surprised me the most when I was strolling with my cousins down the night streets of Beijing was the multitude of people who were so similar to me and to whom I felt a sense of camaraderie. As I looked around, I saw a group of elders dancing to old songs of their days, teenagers hanging out at the flashy clubs, and families heading towards the community square to see a war film in memory of WWII. They were all the same as me. Throughout the weeks, a feeling that went unnoticed peeped out – I am home.