The morning is just light enough to distinguish blurred human figures already bustling through the streets of Beijing. I lie in my bed listening as the voices outside grow louder, the air inside laced with mosquito repellant. While life six floors below me is stirring with street vendors and the scents of frying sesame buns wafting from their pans, the only sound in my grandmother’s apartment is the slow, deep breathing of my sleeping family. The 15-hour time difference between Beijing and San Diego seems to affect only me.
Just one month after turning 17, I am sorry to say that my trips to
From the moment I got off the airplane, nauseated from the ride and by the sticky, humid heat, I was greeted by vaguely familiar faces swirling and smiling all around me while crowds of loud, shoving people pressed upon us. Am I hungry? Tired? Am I still airsick? Their closeness to me made me doubt we ever left China the last time.
Each night of our stay, three generations of our family came together, making each dinner seem like a banquet. Ladles of steaming bamboo and chopped pork from the stir-fried dishes were heaped into my bowl, even when I swore I couldn’t handle another bite of Peking duck.
There is a zero-distance relationship between Chinese family members, even when they haven’t seen each other in four years. My relatives did not find it uncomfortable to comment on how I compare to my sister, personality-wise and academically, nor on my weight since our last visit. While this trip to China was an adventure and experience, it was also a return to a home that I recognize unconsciously; my rooted ancestral surroundings.
At a quick glance, the streets look like an ant hill: streams of black-haired, hurried people that, to an outsider, all look alike. And sometimes, these ants collide, starting a furious, screaming battle on the spot.
All the while, it was hard not to notice the changes affecting the country, from the flood of McDonalds that replaced some of my mother’s favorite childhood niangao dessert shops to the paradoxes that appear when traditional China and industrializing China meet. In the bright yellow and green ploughed fields, farmers still harvest wheat and rice in their triangular straw hats, later offering their crops to me in the marketplace, smiling through the gaps in their teeth. But just a few streets over, in the skyscraping Bai Sheng mall, I saw sleek, elegant men and women with designer bags and Blackberry phones, the new generation of the rapidly developing nation.
To the country of
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